Settling down for a chat with brilliant crinimal mastermind Oddverse and his evil cat Mr Twinky in their welcoming kitchen, complete with habitat furniture, baked beans, slightly dirty floor and rumbling dishwasher, it comes as something of a shock when Oddverse reveals: "We're sitting where the disabled people used to park." Looking around the cheap kitchen, it's difficult to believe him for half a second. "We were surprised too when we found out that this part of the house used to be the overflow car park for the local branch of Aldi," expands Mr Twinky.
Not long after moving in to their three year-old apartment block in a beautifully landscaped contemporary housing estate, Oddverse and Twinky received an unexpected visitor. Doreen Dennis had parked in the car park some six years previously. After excited exclamations of "My dad's a lawyer!" and "I'm going to sue if you don't let me in!" Doreen began to notice the changes to her "car park". Today's cosy sitting room had, in her day, been the path way to the seedy-looking toilet block. The "morning room", which today joins the front door to the other door didn't exist.
But nothing quite prepared her for the discovery of a dingy, cheap kitchen in an area that she remembered quite differently. "This is where I parked," she said. "Have you seen a powder-blue Reliant Robin?" Her father had been a multiple amputee and she had kept his orange sticker after he was unable to use it himself. Every Saturday, she explained, she took his car and her two friends "Fat Shiela" and "Fat Marie" down to Aldi to stock up on chocolate. These were such popular trips that often they were forced to leave Fat Marie behind, just to make room for more chocolate.
As sentimenal as here memories were, Doreen felt the changes made here have been for the worse. The open car park has been transformed into a tiny warren of corridors and boutique apartments. "Sadly, we can't take too much credit", confesses Oddverse. For it was the developers, CFG Gilberto who bought the former car park and converted it in to a red-brick and render monstrosity. It was Gilberto who funded the development, based in London while their contractors transformed the patch of scrub into an eight-storey block; the toilet block into a surreal sculpture. Bit Gilberto were strict with the builders, determined to build on the cheap. For instance, they insisted that the builders slap down grout as they were tiling the bathroom so that the walls would look amateur, and they deliberately chose wide gaps between the wooden floorboards. "Well fitted floorboards are so 1999", Gilberto told Oddverse and Twinky. When they complained.
Today there are no real clues that this part of the block was once used by drug dealers and teenage alcoholics, except perhaps, the occasional visit from a slightly amnesiac hemp-addict. The new kitchen has aged so badly that it's hard to believe it hasn't been like that for generations.
The new bedroom and bathroom nestle in to the space that used to accomodate a single car, kept cosy by their proximity to the lift shaft next door and protective five millimetre thich walls. In the bathroom, a green-stained shower cubicle takes centre stage.
"Looks like it's been here forever, doesn't it?" says Oddverse, "but our neighbours remember only too clearly the hours it took as they helped the guy from MFI to fit it only a few years ago."
The skilfully conceived construction has meant that Oddverse and Twinky have had no option to make any changes to the layout. But the pair have marked their individuality through the decor. The developer had marked the reception room, which runs between the kitchen and the front door as a living room. This had been painted in a plain white. Oddverse and Twinky chose a pale magnolia instead, and as they favour sociable kitchens, decided to abandon the dining room, and make this east facing balcony their "balcony", a local concept where open space is used to store unwanted bicycles, food waste and dogs.
They cheekily describe their particular style as "swisso-jappo", preferring to spend their money on food and drink rather than ornaments and knick-knacks. "We're too hungover to shop", admits Oddverse, "we take forever just deciding where to have lunch!" And true to their word, their home does would have an uncluttered style were it not for the tiny rooms with no breathing space.
Streamlined it may be, but the apartment retains quite a traditional shoebox feel. The cosy TV room is the heard; it's flat-pack furniture and cheap Athena prints have remained unfashionable since their invention. While repecting its traditional squareness, Oddverse and Twinky have brought a surreal chicken theme to the room.
"The kitsch chicken sign dictated the style," confesses Twiny, pointing out the sign pinched from the local fried chicken shop. "We didn't have any lights, so we acquired this one, and whatever we bought had to fit in around the scheme of chicken." The warm colours and faint chicken-smell of the room are in keeping with this style.
The bedroom, bathroom and front door lead off the TV room, in the original second parking bay. This part of the apartment has virtually no room at all, and Oddverse and Twinky have stayed true to its uniform drab style. They've chosen Ikea furniture and traditional white, with one difference: a stack of film, music and "lifestyle" magazines.
"We just love the pictures in the magazines," tells Oddverse. These are evidence in the bedroom where the stack of magazines contrasts starkly with the low ceiling and marginal space around the bed. The utility room next door is too small to do anything in. "Or so we though," says Twinky," before Doreen humbled us by pointing out that it was the same size as her Reliant Robin, and she used to deal pills out of that."
There is one last "room", a small cupboard next to the front door. This enchanting cupboard with its white meter is so cluttered full of shoes that it's easy to imagine that in Doreen's day this was a vibrant and busy car park full of interesting characters and their personality disorders. However, lucky Oddverse and Twinky have Flat 13B all to themselves!
"I bloody hate it here," says Mr Twinky.
In Scotland for the last fortnight, for one of the bestestest holidays I've had in ages. The reasons?
Well, the weather was great. Good weather always shows off a country at its best.
We were in Edinburgh, and the Festivals and accompanying Fringe were on, so let's be honest, the city was a vibrant explosion of colour, drama and alcohol. We spent many a happy afternoon in the open air, drinking Kronenbourg Blanc and being entertained by young comedians desperate to get us to part with our money. We were accosted by Oy Boys selling us fantastic oysters, and thrilled to the joy of a well hung and tender burger. But there's more.
In the umpteen years since I moved away, Scotland has addressed many of the reasons why I left. You can now get a decent coffee, for one. But all of these shows on television talking about "wonderful local produce" have rubbed off, and you can now get your wonderful local produce in many a rural town, in particular in wonderful local restaurants cooked in wonderful local ways. It may well be the same in the rest of Britain, but I haven't been there yet.
If I was a better designer, I would sell photographs of puppies hugging, emblazoned with motivational phrases.
My phrases would include:
Work's still great.
Love exists, but there are different kinds of love.
For example, I love chocolate hob nobs. I like spending time with them, and they give me a nice feeling in my mouth. I also love my partner. But it's a different kind of love. Chocolate hob nobs will never let me down, will never leave me, and will always satisfy me, but frankly I wouldn't want to have a relationship with them, because at the end of the day, I will grow old, and they'll stay fresh.
My partner, on the other hand, is fallible, argumentative, and does my head in. I thus have more in common with my partner than I do with a chocolate hob nob. I can see myself growing old with my partner. I can't see myself growing old with hob nobs - just fatter.
Anyone can have a laugh
Anyone can smile
But not on Eastenders...
Last night I had a dream that an entire series of Lost was dedicated to an investigation of the religious history of the world, split in to random chunks as defined by a grid placed over the globe. The pacific was pretty dull, other areas were more interesting, but I did realise that there was an implicit cultural bias.
As usual, I realised this was due to me imposing my cultural bias on the programme I was watching, and that my bias was no better or worse than theirs, per se, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, to see what Wikipedia's cultural overlay was and to look at the political infighting behind each page, to decide which of the topics were controversial, and which of the facts might therefore be merely opinion.
As my brain was about to go in to meltdown, it decided to wake up, just to give itself a rest.
There are three people at the table next to us as we sit down for dinner. Pretty young things - two guys and a girl. Sophie's slim, brunette, quite attractive, with a little button nose that looks like it may not be her original one. Deep dark eyes, smoking a cigarette lazily. Next to her is Pitr. You get the vibe from their body language that Pitr is Sophie's boyfriend. He's got shoulder length blonde hair, wispy and wavy. Eyes hidden behind sunglasses. Across from them sits Mark - dark hair, slim, the youngest of the three. I guess they're all between 19 and 22.
Their conversation is banal. "No," says Pitr. "My hair isn't straight, a lot of people think that. It's actually wavy." We zone in and out of their conversation as we moan about the service. At Pitr's feet, a puppy eyes our plates hungrily. At the table next to us two coffee's are ordered. Pitr gets his bike, cycles off.
Blah, blah, blah. "So," Sophie asks. "Are you gay?"
Mark shakes his head, puzzled. "No, I told you. My ex-girlfriend was in Playboy, remember?"
"Yeah, yeah, but you know, you do look a bit gay." His appearance, being perfectly fair to him, does scream out that he might be a bit gay.
"Metrosexual," he says.
"That's kind of like bi, isn't it?"
"You should bulk up, work out, get yourself a six pack."
"I'm not bad, I like my body."
Mark lifts his shirt for her.
"...so I did some modelling too, but you know, modelling is not great here, the money is not good. I did some glamour modelling, nude stuff, you know. I even did some girl-girl stuff once. It was twenty minutes work and it paid a thousand euro, yeah? It wasn't too bad. She was really nice. You know I've always suspected that I was a bit bi. I think everyone is, don't you?"
Pitr returns. Sophie takes the dog for a walk. There's a tension between the two young men, but it's a tension of predator and prey rather than friends. We can tell what's going to happen next.
"Yeah, the money's in porn. The kinkier the better. I reckon a video of you and me together could make maybe fifty thousand euro. At twenty euro a disc we'd only have to sell..." he trails off. Division is stretching his talents. He's sitting with his legs apart, louche and sleazy. But something tells me that the video is going to be made.
Sophie's returned, and they're talking about drugs. She's got a favourite, that I don't catch the name of. "It's great when you're on it. I mean, you just love everyone, and anything, and you just want to fuck, but man, afterwards, it's really really tough. You ever tried it?"
Mark hasn't. You know that he's going to. From the body language you can tell he thinks he might have a chance with Sophie. He doesn't.
And then they're off. We let them go. I don't know whether we should have interfered, I don't know what we could have done. And I don't know how to get hold of the video.