Kim Bah Lee Bookshop

Although I should have been hanging curtains and charging the electric drill, I’m pleased to say that Kim Bah Lee Books is now open for business. It’s new, so be nice. My own erudite recommendations will be slowly added in the time it takes for me to learn to read.

I heartily recommend you spend most of your Christmas money here.

Happy New Year

Back from five days in Malta. Christmas was a quiet family gathering of 25, where everybody was nice to each other. Gayle got a Bulgari watch and I got a pair of socks.

New Year’s Eve was spent in the company of a man with a bad haircut and 29 other pax with rather good haircuts. My haircut was decidedly run-of-the-mill.

New Year’s Day has been spent “getting things in order”, which has mainly entailed lying on the sofa, watching re-runs of Spooks and smoking cigarettes.

Last week. I went to Ikea, had half a lobster for 8 euros, forgot half of what I went in for and realised, after two hours of using a plastic screwdriver as a hammer, that I’d bought the wrong stuff anyway.

So I’d like to wish both of my readers a successful 2007. Happy New Year, Mum and Dad!

Why I love The UK

I love the UK because in the space of 24 hours, I ate turkey and tinsel (which stuck in the throat) with the Eastbourne Gilbert and Sullivan Society, followed by watching little brother (who asked for a mention) set the girls’ skirts on fire with his wheels of steel and Charles Manson (the killer, not the actor) style facial hair. Some slapper from Hastings told me that the label in my jacket said I was “fit” and then I burnt the roof of my mouth on a Ginster’s Chicken and Mushroom pie at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Maltese Morality Confusion

It’s a few days and counting until I’m back in Malta. Normally, any trip to the rock wouldn’t be complete without a trip to watch some near-naked ladies gyrate on stage, whilst I imbibe overpriced beers and make small talk with Lenka or Svetlana from somewhere in Eastern Europe.

The lap-dancing bars in Malta are amongst the most conservative in any country I’ve visiited. Italy has them attached to petrol stations and Thailand, well enough said. But on the Rock, the girls don’t take their clothes off, don’t touch you, and are peopled almost exclusively by young drunk students and the occasional member of the Rafia and their entouraage.

But it looks like this year will be different, following police raids on my favourite establishments.

This article from the Independent gives you the rundown. If you’ve got a couple of minutes I recommend you read it entirely.

Here’s the summary:

  • 35 women have been arrested, charged with performing immoral acts in public and participating in a brothel.
  • Plain clothes police were ordered to arrest “anyone wearing a thong.”
  • One woman was arrested, who “was not dressed inappropriately but who featured on several photographs that [the policeman] found on a computer.” In the photographs the woman was wearing “tight shorts and a short top.”
  • “The shorts were tighter than those of a gymnast.”
  • “The fact that they were dancing means they were participating in immoral acts because of the way they were dressed.”
  • “Wearing a thong on the beach is one thing but wearing a thong in a public place is illegal.”

Now, I don’t want to sound like a loony lefty, and while I applaud the strength of family values in a country I love, this makes me shudder, smacking of a Taliban-esque régime of discriminate, cloudy interpretations of public morality.

So this winter, in Malta, I’ll mainly be wearing a thong.‎

Lewis Crofts – Unashamed Plug

Lewis is a great friend of mine. For the past few years he’s been shying away from his responsibilities in the pub and writing a book. It must be good because somebody’s publishing it.

I read a very early draft version and it was a revelation (unblinkered and unbiaised product review). Any novel that has the word “syphilis” in the first sentence is alright by me.

It’s the embellished biography of dirty old painter Egon Schiele, protegé of Klimt and imprisoned for creating porn. It charts his father’s insanity, his suppressed lust for his sister and a fair bit of homo-erotic fumbling with famous characters from an age gone by.

The publication date isn’t until next year, but you can be guaranteed to get a pristine first edition, bound to be worth a fortune, by pre-ordering NOW your copy of The Pornographer of Vienna. Click away.

(He doesn’t know this yet, but he’ll be doing free beer and personalised book signings for anybody who shows up at his signing event in Brussels next spring.)

Gentle Art Of Salesmanship

I’m back selling stuff, actually trafficking in human beings, and it’s like a drug. I’m building my library of self-help books and this weekend found a fantastic second-hand copy of “The Gentle Art of Salesmanship” (selling for one pence on Amazon) that was written twenty years ago by a man called Harry Turner.

“A selling career … is good for your health, can make you rich, possiby famous, and offers unrivalled opportunities for world travel, good food, fine wine and sexual encounters undreamed of by quantity surveyors even in Slough.”

“If you are the unfortunate possessor of a strong Lancashire, Yorkshire, Birmingham or Liverpool accent, you should ony embark on a sales career if you remain in your own region among people who speak as hideously as you.”

They don’t make self-help books like that any more …

Big Girl’s Blouse

I’m often uncomfortable, as in fear for for my safety uncomfortable. Sitting in passenger seats in fast moving cars, sitting in passenger seats in slow moving cars, walking through Eastbourne town centre at eight on a Friday night, scuba-diving, drinking milk that’s a day out of date … that sort of thing.

But around guns I’ve always reckoned myself pretty cool. Apart from the time at school a four-foot psycho called Wingnut explained to me that with his blank-firing cadet’s rifle that if he got really close and discharged it directly into my ear then the force would be enough to evacuate my brain out the other side. (He went on to be expelled for disabling a milk-man with a high-speed ball-bearing.)

I’ve hung out with former child soldiers in Cambodia (see picture) and fired off automatic machine guns. Didn’t even flinch.

But I was particularly uncomfortable on Friday night when, as the first arrival at Tippler’s Bond party, somebody went the whole hog and discharged some sort of fire-arm about three feet away. And it wasn’t a cap-gun. So I was the first departure as well.

It was, apparently, a starting pistol. Don’t care. Call me old-fashioned, but I remember the days when you could walk into a bar in Brussels and the only danger came from paranoid drug-dealing Albanians with sharp knives and big fists …

Belgian Drivers And Paul Theroux

I am now married.

I am also still alive, despite the best efforts of a large man in a large car, who cut me up on Montgomery roundabout and sent me flying off my scooter. I have a sore thumb. The scooter is written off.

I was actually quite upset. But now I’m okay. Thanks for asking.

I have just read My Secret History by Paul Theroux and it was loathsome and brilliant.

I will now stop start sentences with “I”. Or shoot me.