The Battle Cruiser


I do love a pub.

And when I say that, I don’t mean a bar, or a cafe bar. Or a restaurant with a bar where you wait while your table is prepared. I mean a pub.

While we’re at it I also don’t mean a converted high street bank. A place which used to be a very good community bank, and is now a very shite community service pub. A place where you can buy “A chicken curry and a pint for £4.99 every Tuesday”. I don’t mean a place adorned with signs announcing “Girls get Purple drinks Half price every Monday, Wednesday and third Sunday”. I mean a pub.

Sometimes a pub's so nice it merits stopping drinking and taking a picture. This is me in the perfect Hoppe in Amsterdam. And not a hot meal in sight.

A pub should generally follow several broad guidelines. A pub should be a place where one goes to meet old friends and make new ones. And drink with them. To that end, the music out of any speakers therein should be soft enough to hear yourself think and talk, loud enough to induce an argument over the singer or the song’s identity. What decent night down the boozer worth remembering didn’t have a row in it ? And an argument over music is as good a place to start as any.

Any live singer or band playing in the pub should adhere to the above decibel guidelines. If such proves impossible, the act should always remember they are playing in a public house and therefore popular, anthem-type songs, mostly over ten years old is a must. I don’t want to sit examining my pint to the strains of the garbage you composed in your garage last night. Save that for the students. Landlords should reserve just one night per week for live music. There are only so many times I want to hear/sing Sweet Caroline down the local: Once at about ten o’clock and one encore. That’s plenty. Unless I’m drunk.

Food is an important thing to consider when running a pub, and I always think a good landlord should follow this rule of thumb: There should be no food in a pub. Packets of nibbles behind the jump are permitted. But, customers, if you want to eat a meal, then make yourself a sandwich before you go out, or go to a restaurant, eat a meal, then go to the pub. Or go down the pub, have a goodly drink, then stagger into a curry house/chinese takeaway after the landlord of the pub has refused you further refreshment.

One of the more annoying sensations is trying to enjoy the happy, hoppy whiff of a well-poured pint only to have your nasal enjoyment interrupted by the odour of fish, chips, gravy and the like. This is a pub, not an eatery. If you get peckish help yourself to peanuts, pork scratchings, pickled eggs or crisps which are available, at a very competitive rate behind the bar. You’ve already rid us of the smell of a smouldering ashtray in the corner (oh, sorry mate, is that your girlfriend ?), don’t start rubbing Ralgex into the groin by putting sachets of ketchup on the table or waving a plateful of sausage ‘n’ mash at me, when I’m only interested in a pint of Light ‘n’ Bitter.

Outdoors Bad

You would think that it would be a prerequisite of owning a pub that you serve beer (or gin, if you really must) in a glass receptacle, wouldn’t you ? No such luck any more, I’m afraid. How many times have you walked up to a bar, ordered a drink only to be greeted by the dreaded phrase “you drinking that inside or out, luv?”  Who hasn’t lied at this juncture, only to be caught out by the potman when he sees you craftily swigging from your glass while standing in the garden cos your girlfriend thought “it’d be nice to drink outside”? You reluctantly hand your drinking vessel back to the glass collector who then transfers its contents into a plastic beaker. Oh, the shame of it. A 2009 United Nations report found that one of the most (some say only) catastrophic results of global warming will be a huge increase of people being forced by women to drink outside and thus being forced to slurp from plastic “glasses”.

There’s nothing like finding a lovely cold, dark pub when the sun’s blazing outside. Or a nice, cozy, warm pub when it’s freezing outside. In short, there’s nothing like finding a nice pub. We don’t go in there to get drunk, you understand? No, we go in there for the craic. Occasional drunkeness is an unfortunate by-product of enjoying the craic, but not a compulsory nor inevitable outcome. His eminence William (Bill) Greaves (see Now Then… elswhere in these pages) has informed us how to behave in such places and situations, and it is clear from his teachings that we should endeavour to conduct ourselves in a dignified way befitting a serious (and let us not forget expensive) pastime such as drinking. Right up to the time we are plastered, that is.

Indoors Good

Is it therefore too much to ask that the landlord should present to us an establishment fit and befitting of this aforementioned due respect to our favourite pasttime? These meeting holes should be places of wonderment and worship. What they shouldn’t be is reminiscent of airport departure lounges with the addition of a John Smith’s pump. We neither want nor need plastic leprechauns on the walls, rows of vodka-shots lined up on the bar or 24/7 football on the enormous tv screens in each and every corner. Take a butchers at The Salisbury, St Martin’s Lane, London (or The Harp just around the corner in Chandos Place) and you’ll see what I mean. You don’t have to be in England to find wonderful watering holes. You may struggle to find a pint of mild, but there are always corners of a foreign field which are perfect spots to while away the hours. Try The Hoppe in Amsterdam which is as close to heaven as you could possibly be without throwing a seven. It has been a bar since 1670 and they’re still wondering how or if to redecorate it! There’s Robert’s Western World in Nashville where, if you can excuse the lack of a decent beer, you can sit and listen to fantastic music while manfully trying to avoid a bourbon overdose. You will fail. It’s sensational because of and in spite of that.

Nearer to home there’s The Fleece in Halifax, if you catch it on the right night. You could do worse than visit my own Shovel in Dartford. A wonderful example of a tiny, well-kept drinking den. Food?  Next door, mate. There’s Henchy’s in Cork, but we don’t have enough time to discuss Irish pubs. Just pick one, you’ll like it.

And why do I go on so ? Haven’t we heard all this before ? Well that’s as maybe. But I have a particular reason for sharing my thoughts with you. After a slight hiccup in the brain department last week, it seems that I’m hurtling towards my first dry Christmas since 1979. No Shovel for me this year. No hangover on Boxing Day, trying to remember what I drunk and when. No, I’m down for lashings of tea and biscuits, with the temptation of a chocolate liqueur ever-present. It may not be as bad as it sounds. You really don’t want a hangover with a malfunctioning brain like mine. And that’s before having a stroke. The spector of repeat performance last week scared the willies out of me so for my own good I’m off the stuff for the foreseeable future.

So you’ll have to have mine for me. Take it sensibly and behave yourself. Enjoy it and enjoy whichever boozer you chose to make your own. You never know, you may end up in The Rose and Crown, swinging on the barmaid’s…er…earrings. I doubt if you’ll find George there though :

Oh, and by the way: This is a pub. Want a coffee? Fuck off to Starbucks.

Get Bach


As busy as I am, I did have the odd week the other day to do a bit of browsing on the internet. This list of bogus album titles must be 35 years old and was originally seen on the outside of Monty Python’s Instant Record Collection. Some of the jokes are dated, many of their victims are now dead. Still bleedin’ funny though.

Sheffield United Sing Noel Coward
The Luton Gynaecologists Choir
Bright Lights, Soft Music, Live Goats: Ramon & Ted
Bernard Delfont Live At The Bank Next To The London Palladium
More Songs From The Goole And District Catholic River Wideners Club
I Left My Pacemaker In San Francisco – Dr De Bakery
Scottish Airs – The Hamish Mcfart Singers
John, Paul, George And Ringo – The Davenport Brothers

It’s All Over My Friend – Earl K Vomit And The Meatabolic Processes
My Way Or Else – Frank Sinatra
It’s The Fuzz Again – P.C. Ron Spendloff
Young, Gifted, Black And Furry: Ramon & Ted
Party Time, Princess “Piano” Margaret
The Horrid Brothers Kill Anyone In Sight
Beethoven’s Punk Symphony, In B Flat – “The Stinking Bastard” (Bandages Supplied)
The Wonderful Sound Of Hip Injuries
More Hip Injuries (Painfully Yours)
The Best Of Reggae Maudling – (Rastatory Label)
The Dave Clark Five’s War Speeches
Raw Power Punk Kill Blast Throttle Destroy! – Clodagh Rotten
A Man Who Once Sold Paul Mccartney A Newspaper – Live!
Give Me The Moonlight And The Goats – Ramon And Ted
A Night In Casablanca – The Everly Sisters
An Evening With Martin Bormann (And The Trio Los Paraguayos)

The Best Of The Osmonds Teeth – Vol Xi
My Brain Hurts And Other National Front Marching Songs
Hitting Ourselves With The Little Curved Bit On The End Of The Shaving Brush – Eric And The Loonies
Monty Python’s Best Sketches Beginning With ‘R’
The Best Bits Of Rolf Harris
Teach Yourself Power
Norma Shearer Whistles Duane Eddie
Nixon’s Solid Gold Denials
When The Chickens Are Asleep – Ramon And Ted
Friday Night Is Bath Night, J.P. Gumby
When We’re Apart – The Legs
The Milkman Whistles Stockhausen – ‘A’ Milkman
My Brain Hurts – The Moron Tabernacle Choir
Together Again – Frank And Ifield
Ron Simon And Geoff Garfunkel: Live From The Tennis Club Purley
Eternally Yours – The Massed Windscale Marching Scientists
Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay Again!
Me, Myself, I, Personally, Again Vol 2 – Anthony Newley
Bang Goes Boing!
Bong Bangy Bing!
Boeing Boeing (Cast Album)

I Do It My Way – Ned Sherrin
Monty Python Tries It On Again!
Pet Smells – The Beach Boys
For Love And Goats And Chickens: Ramon And Ted
The Pick Of The Best Of Some Recently Repeated Python Hits Again
Get Bach – The Best Of The Welsh Beatles
You And The Night And The Music And The Chicken: Ramon And Ted
Tom Jones Hits Frank Sinatra While Vic Damone And Mel Torme Grab Engelbert Humperdinck, At Last
Bing Is Back
Back Is Bing!
Michael Dennison & Dulcie Gray Cycle To Land’s End
Ruling Songs And Ballads – H.M. The Queen And The Jordanaires
Accountants Work Songs
I’ve Got A Beer Glass Sticking In My Head And Other Rugby Songs
Takeover Ballads: Slater-Nazi Ltd
Rastaman – Sir Kenneth Joseph (Deleted)
Every Picture Tells A Story – Britt Eckland
Atlantic Crossing – Britt Eckland
An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down – Britt Eckland
Never A Dull Moment – Britt Eckland
Gasoline Alley – Britt Eckland
Smiler – Britt Eckland
A Night On The Town – Britt Eckland
Footloose And Fancy Free – Britt Eckland
The Beatles Chauffers Live! Running Songs And Surrendering Ballads: The Massed Bands Of The Queen’s Own Cowards (Or Some Of Them)
Frank Sinatra Live At The Senate Hearings

Fuckin’ ‘Ell, It’s Liz Taylor


You’d have thought that spending a life in the public eye for being a master in your chosen field would warrant you a few well-chosen lines in the national papers’ obituary columns when it came your turn to snuff it. But the Law of Sod often has one last laugh at your expense by somehow arranging to kill-off another celebrity and thus depriving you of the plaudits your time on Earth deserved.

Thus when Mother Teresa of Calcutta threw a seven, she had the misfortune to throw it during the official month of mourning afforded to that other living saint, Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of the People’s Hearts and unofficial Patron of the English Rugby Team. Old Ma Treesa didn’t get a look in. The world is only geared up to mourn one deity at a time and the aged nun missed out by a short head.

When the brilliant Ian Carmichael finally curled up his tootsies, you’d have thought he who brought us the celluloid embodiment of Bertie Wooster, who starred in the Trade Union-bashing I’m All Right Jack and thrilled us in School for Scoundrels (the funny one, not the 2006 version starring Billy Bob Thornton) would have warranted page upon page of tributes and gushing obits. Sadly for Ian, Alexander McQueen had recently shuffled off and there wasn’t enough column inches to dedicate to two geniuses [sic] at one time unfortunately and the frock-botherer prevailed.

Now I have nothing against Elizabeth Taylor. If you are a certain generation I’m sure she was the greatest thing since sliced cheese. I’ve seen a few of her movies and she was no more or less wooden than the rest of her fellow actors (I never really got Richard Burton either. How could Mark Anthony have a Welsh accent?). I know Liz won a couple of Oscars and her charity work is legendary. Fair play to her.

But did she ever take 7 wickets for 79 runs against the Australians at Sydney ? Fred Titmus did.

Did Dame Elizabeth ever take 9-52 against Cambridge University at Fenners ? Fed Titmus did.

Did Liz ever lose four toes in a freak boating accident yet the following season take 111 wickets in the season, while at the same time topping his club’s batting averages ? No she didn’t but, incredibly, Fred did that too.

Did Taylor ever open the batting for her country against the West Indies in Barbados, whilst suffering from Bells Palsey and confined to a wheelchair due to chronic gout, nevertheless scoring a half-century in 43 balls including two sixes ? No, neither did Fred, but it would have been a great story.

So while you’re ploughing though the tributes and re-runs of Liz Taylor and nestling down in your armchair to watch the seventeen hours of boredom that is Cleopatra or maybe the drivel that is National Velvet, spare a thought for Fred Titmus, a man who’s career spanned five decades, was a great all-rounder, and had a very fine song written about him.

Turned out Nice Again, In’t it?


Those under the age of 107 need not read this. Please feel free to skip to the next post.

George Formby may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he was massive in his day. And  I have a shiny new shilling to bet that 70 years from now we won’t be singing along to Christina Aguilera or Tiny Talent tunes. Some of us aren’t even doing that now. So for for Howard, Dave, Les, Kev and Rita, and all the other sad old gits out there here’s something for you. (If you get stuck there’s a little help after).

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… but chiefly YOURSELVES !!

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Stay tuned next week for Tessie O’Shea and her banjolele.

In Bed with Ingrid


I remember catching my first glimpse of Ingrid Pitt. Back in the early-70s I was given my first tv set which I’d be allowed to keep in my room. It was a black and white, 6 inch, (analogue, kids) metal-clad affair with a dirty great carrying handle on top. My parents had, after some lobbying from yours truly, bought it for Christmas one year with the express orders that, not only should I watch it every night between 9pm (beddie-byes time) until I could no longer keep my eyes open, but that I should thrash myself within an inch of my life while doing so, when appropriate. Well that’s how I remember it anyway.

It took me a good few months to realise that the tv came with a tiny earphone-jack which would enable me to watch The Sweeney, I CLAVDIVS or The Beguiled without giving the game away to my parents in the next door bedroom. I didn’t actually own any headphones, so guess what was on my Christmas list the following year ? That’s right – an England football shirt.

Back in those heady, sweaty days, there was no internet to amuse me, and no dvd players. The home video age was still several years away. You could buy video recorders but they were the size of Belgium and when played dimmed the street lights outside. So we were left to the whims of the tv executives who decided when and what we were to watch on a Tuesday night from the comfort of our three-piece suite or, in my case, under the blankets in bed. (A duvet was known in my house as a “continental quilt” and I’d have to wait a few years yet to get my bum under one.)

And it was through this tv that I became aware of Ingrid. This blonde, buxom bird who’s face (and often much more) was projected onto my little black and white screen during the hours of darkness. This woman was magnificent. This woman was gorgeous. She was sexy. And she seemed to be in every other movie that I managed to see.

I was only interested in two types of movie: War and Horror (note the distinction). War because, obviously, there was a lot of shooting of Germans to be had. Horror because at some stage during the 90 minutes you could guarantee that some victorian wench would end up starkers and screaming for her life as her blouse was ripped from her lithe, white flesh and she was ravaged by someone in an unconvincing werewolf outfit (where were those bloody  headphones ?). Anton Diffring was in all the war movies, Ingrid Pitt was in all the horrors. (They were both in Where Eagles Dare)

As I’d yet to experience any homo-erotic tendencies towards masculine, blue-eyed Germans (and I’m still waiting), my affections lay with Ingrid. Even if I couldn’t. And why not ? Look at the picture at the top of this story. It’s a studio still from Vampire Lovers – the erotic goth horror classic. Ingrid’s on the far left. How sexy is she ?? She didn’t squeak annoyingly like Madeline Smith and didn’t scare the bejesus out of me as did Kate O’Mara. No, Ingrid was the one for me. I spent those nights listening to her soft sensual Swedish voice (well, how was I supposed to know she was actually Polish?) and hoping that soon all her clothes would fall off. I never had to wait long, bless her.

So now sadly, at the age of 73, she has gone upstairs to meet up again with Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and the rest. Perhaps her and Anton Diffring will relive old times ? She might even let Richard Burton’s Broadsword finally meet her Danny Boy.

…and now a word from our sponsor:

Now Let’s You Just Drop Them Pants.


I watched Deliverance again the other night. I’d forgotten just how great that movie is. I’d also forgotten that Jon Voight wore the Movember moustache and not Burt Reynolds.  And poor old Ned Beatty. It reminded me of a trip I took to through Wales once. Bloody terrifying. I got stuck in a pub with a whole bunch of  primitive-looking locals. I never thought for one minute they wanted to bugger me, but there was an alarming moment when I was sure they were about to perform close harmony singing at me. Soiled myself. Squealed like a pig. I’m not going back into that God-forsaken wilderness ever again. Cardiff, I think it was called.

Anyway, watching the movie did get me wondering: How in the world could you better  Dueling Banjos ?

And I’m still wondering.

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Ponting, Punches and Pudsey


Free beer for all’ if Aussies win Ashes

An Australian brewer offered a free beer to every adult in the country if Australia beat England in the upcoming Ashes cricket Tests.  VB on Tuesday pledged to “shout the nation” if Australia win back the coveted trophy in the five-Test series, starting November 25.

“This summer, when the final wicket falls and the Aussies lift the urn triumphantly, Australia’s best cold beer pledges to ‘shout the nation’,” the company said.”That’s one ice-cold VB for every eligible person of drinking age, and one huge celebration of the rightful return of the Ashes.” AFP

Yes, we’ve reached the silly season as the long-awaited Ashes series is nearly upon us. I’m sure you’re as excited as I am, counting the days til the first ball is bowled in Brisbane next Friday. Forget your F1 finales, your World Series or your European Championship footy, this is proper, real important sport and things have begun to get weird. A few weeks ago Londoners were treated to the sight of the mug of Aussie captain Ricky Ponting projected onto the Big Ben clock tower at Westminster in London, though it wasn’t clear to many what message that was supposed to send. Was Ricky trying to defect ? If so he could have saved himself the effort: we’ve already got one under-performing show-pony from the southern hemisphere masquerading in English colours and we don’t need another, thanks all the same.

Then yesterday the Australian Cricket Board announced its ‘team’ to face the Poms in the first match. Where traditionally you’d expect 12 or maybe 13 names on the sheet from which the final 11 would be selected, the ACB decided that 17 men were still in with a chance of representing their country. This uncertainty by the board may be the first example of  group of Australians with no convictions. I haven’t seen (or had the time to read) the full list of Waynes, Shanes, Quades, Sharleens or Marlenes on the list, but I hear Russell Crowe was in with an outside chance and Rolf Harris is a decent opening bat, though not as quick as he used to be between the wickets. Jason Donovan has not been selected due to his inability to disguise his wrong-un.

It’s not just the Strines who are showing the signs of nerves. Former England Captain Michael Vaughan looks like he’s also feeling the pressure of the build-up.

The interviewer had apparently started asking rude and nasty questions. He was stroppy as he’s one of the few Aussies not selected for the squad. He’d also stayed up all night to watch the Audley Harrison vrs David Haye fight earlier and didn’t expect any Englishman to throw a punch at any time in the near future. One can only presume that had Vaughan got into the ring with Audrey the fight would have been over 6 minutes earlier.

Sadly, rumour has it the video may well be either an advert by the Yorkshire Tourist Board or even worse a stunt dreampt up by those wags at the BBC for the upcoming Children in Need. There are many emotions which coarse though my veins when I watch a telethon and I have to admit that punching the nearest person is one of them. Watching 17 hours of half-baked skits and show-tunes performed by D-Listers is enough to turn anyone to violence. I’d willingly pledge the entire contents of my wallet (currently £7.46) if I didn’t have to watch the cast of Eastenders perform Yentl.  AGAIN!  The BBC Newsroom with doubtless be wheeled out yet again to embarrass themselves and others as they mince their way through Porgy and Bess or High School Musical.

They have a whole year to put this tosh together, surely they could come up with something better than JLS sing Meatloaf or whatever rubbish we’re gonna be subjected to? On the other hand, as the cricket will broadcast live through the night, I may just use Children in Need to help me change my sleep patterns. A quick flash of my credit card and I can tuck myself up in bed, dreaming of sunny Brisbane to the soundtrack of tumbling Australian wickets.

I dunno who these two blokes are but I could watch them all night. (Advanced warning: Two old codgers chat about Aussie cricket. Heaven)


Disgusting of Tunbridge Wells


My god I’m fat. I’ve got five suits hanging upstairs, none of which I can get anywhere near. Seeing my body in the bathroom mirror doesn’t make for pretty viewing. I now have my own post code. My own gravitational pull. I’m thinking of getting an all-over body tattoo of a tall, thin bloke.

It’s incredible how much weight you can put on when you spend most days five yards away from the fridge. Five months off work and the temptation of the kitchen cupboard is too great for one so weak. When you’re at work, scuttling to-and-from the tube, running around the office and jumping up and down from your desk to grab a cup of tea you presumably burn up enough calories to allow you the occasional visit to the West Cornwall Pasty Co and not pile on the blubber.

I’m one who delights in the pleasure of the odd medium chicken and vegetable, a cup of potato wedges, washed down with a couple of packs of M&S millionaires shortbread and for years I’ve managed to keep at my fighting weight of two stone heavier than I should be. I’ve never had to resort to taking the stairs instead of the lift, donning lycra and peddling into the office on a Boris Bike (just don’t, ok?) or wasting perfectly good pub time in the gym.

By the way, what is it about people (of either gender) who go to work in a suit and trainers ? If those shoes you’re carrying in that bag of yours hurt too much to walk half a mile along a pavement to your office then DON’T FUCKING BUY THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. Suit and trainers ??? Trainers are to be worn with jeans or shorts, not your best pinstripe or sharkskin. You don’t look cool, you don’t look trendy, you look like a complete and utter berk. You’d look less ridiculous in a pair of flippers

See what I mean ?

Anyway.

Yesterday we drove down to Royal Tunbridge Wells, Georgian spa town, home of the angry Daily Telegraph reader and for one night only, venue of “An Evening with David Lloyd”, former England cricket player and coach, now Sky TV cricket commentator. He’s on tour with his ‘stand-up’ show of wit and wisdom of the great game, recounting hilarious anecdotes from his playing days, poking fun at himself and the great players of yesteryear (yes, you’re right, you’d have loved it). I’d syringed myself into one of the few remaining shirts I could actually still button up, got The Incumbent to help me into my jacket and I rolled myself out to the car, taking care not to let my thighs make too loud a swishing noise as they rubbed together. The Missus also helped me into the driver’s seat and plug in my seatbelt – I’m finding it harder and harder to bend around to either clunk or click.

Tunbridge Wells was a disappointment. A homogonised shopping centre here, a rather shabby yet still celebrated Pantiles there and a dirty great hill in between. We tried to get food in a few pubs (sidestepping the ubiquitous Wetherspoons, of course) none of which did food (after 3pm ????) and barely sold beer but did a very tempting line in teenage abusive drunks. Mmmmmmm….. vodka redbull on a monday evening. Luvverly. Having retreated to an outlet of an Italian chain of eateries, we devoured the meal placed in front of us and watched the poor sods fresh off the London or Hastings train, trudging their way up the steep slope to their homes, maybe taking in an exciting branch of H&M or Paperchase on the way.

But wherever they’d been and wherever they were going one thing was clear to me: There they were in their M&S wool suits, with their backpack across their shoulders and Nike Shox on their feet, scaling the last peak of the day to their loved ones; and there I was with a dripping wedge of Pizza Rustica hanging from my mouth in between toothpicks. They were getting natural exercise and keeping trim where I wasn’t and I wasn’t. But were they happy ? Who can tell ?

I hear stories of doctors in Red China who have suggested regular exercise can lead to a fuller, healthier and even longer life. But these are the same blokes who reckon rhino horn gives you the …er… horn, right ? So opinion is divided on the matter, I reckon. If there’s anyone who knows the damage regular exercise can do to the human body, you’re reading him.

Reversing into a parking space on our return, I couldn’t twist my gut around enough to see what was behind me, so I relied on my mirrors. I promptly crunched hard into an invisible lamp post. This was getting ridiculous. My stomach was not only affecting my wardrobe and my breathing patterns, but now it was impeding my driving which, in turn, meant I was knocking lumps out of The Incumbent’s motor who would therefore soon surely start knocking lumps out of me.

So that’s it. New regime time. As soon as I get out of bed I’m going to catch a cab up to the health food shop in the village and see what they have to tempt my taste buds. I’m hoping for sugar-free M&Ms, diet pies and low fat lager, but will settle for Guinness Light. I might even put my trainers on. If they still fit.

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