I am not a practical person.

Take my bathroom sink. Something somewhere in the system went "THUNK" one night and for the past three weeks or so the mixer tap hasn't been drawing cold water. Hot water, fine. All the other cold water in the biscuit, fine. This tap, no cold water.

And what with it being a "designer" thing installed by the bloke who sold me the house, of course it requires special parts to make it work. And special parts have special suppliers. High street they ain't, and knowing where to buy them is just the first problem. But I track them down eventually and explain what's happened.

"Sounds like you need to replace the cartridge," says the salesman during my first phone call. "Come by, and I'll pop the top of the tap and show you how to do it."

This is great news as I've been determined to resolve it myself. The purchase of parts and tools to finish the job, finding the stopcock, taking the tap to pieces and reassembling it, all with the minimum of professional advice and assistance.

Yet after my second visit in two days to the upitsownarse bathroom supplier, things are no further on.

The lack of manual and inadequate explanations provided by the shop staff ("You didn't tell me there were two grub screws" "Oh, yeah, right, sorry" or "So you're saying those shouldn't be lined up, but your colleague said they should be, which is it?" "Well they shouldn't be, I don't know") have left me frustrated, bleeding and still without cold water.

Trouble is, I have no aptitude and a similar amount of experience in rudimentary plumbing, and everyone else I talk to concerning the matter regards it as second nature, with a made up language ("Look down the spline and you should see it" "The what?"), an expectation that everyone else understands what they're talking about, and a deeply impatient, condescending manner towards anyone who dares ask a simple question.

Another two phone calls after my second visit stretch us all to the limit.

Saleman: "Sigh... It's really very easy."

Me: "With the greatest respect you've done this before, but I haven't, and I DON'T UNDERSTAND YOU!"

Salesman: "Well, we sell loads of them and nobody else has ever had a problem."

Yeah, well I fucking well am.

Three weeks of cleaning my teeth in the kitchen sink is as much as I'm willing to take. I'm grateful for running water in the rest of the place, but what use is designer chic if it doesn't bloody work.

And fuck pride, I've got a plumber coming in.

It may be pampered and an indictment of my abilities as a barely-functioning man, but molecules just don't work for me the way they do for other people.

And I'll feel so bloody smug if it's something other than the cartridge.


Shameless plagiarist that I am it was only going to be so long before I signed up for the "101 Things in 1001 Days" project.

You can find my list of things here.

The eagle-eyed will spot that the programme actually entails more than 101 individual things, but I don't consider one trip to the theatre to require any effort. Twenty times in less than three years? That requires some dedication. And that's one of the easy ones. Learning to drive? Whole different kettle of ducks entirely.

Anyway, 101 or not, who's counting?

Long and short, you'll be able to track the progress with a running commentary o'er on t'other blog or, for those who can't face it, trust that it'll provide enough anecdotes to breathe a little more life into trusty old nb. I'm sure it will. Cos let's face it kids, things have been a little tired around here since the angry, lovesick days of 2003.

I'd better stop procrastinating and get on with stuff. So enjoy the ride. Just don't expect everything to happen at once.


Phrases I never thought I'd hear (No 1 in a likely one-off series)

"Don't miss that with our all-star cast including... Steve Guttenberg"

Monday 13 February 2006, 7.30pm, Sky One

Twenty years too late, surely?! Or maybe not. What is Hollyweird coming to?


I don't often feel the need to big up something done by my colleagues (not that I couldn't every day, it would just get boring) but all this month the BBC News website's running a series on 60 years of British public information films.

They've unearthed some real gems, such as a semi-naked Rolf Harris on teaching kids to swim, the fixtastic Jimmy Savile on the importance of wearing seatbelts, and a cartoon about coastguardswhich I've seen on TV in the last five years, despite it having been made in the late 60s.

It's interesting how many of the ads concern themselves with water - or perhaps not, considering our island status.

But it's a theme continued in the best of the bunch so far, a cautionary tale about the dangers of lonely water. Voiced by scaremeister-general and one-time 007 foe Donald Pleasence as the very grimmest of reapers, it's creepier than the majority of modern horror movies.

Don't watch it before bed...


Previously on nota benny...

This is a big fat hairy mistake which can end in nothing but tears.

Last time I grumbled about Graeme Souness (April last year - amazing restraint, I know, but I didn't want to bore people) Erik said "I would have fancied City against yours on current form". You may have been 10 months out, fella, but I suppose I have to thank you for last night's 3-0 drubbing.

Well as you can see, I never wanted Souness at Newcastle United in the first place. And now, thankfully, he's gone, far too long after dragging us into the depths of mediocrity that had Blackburn considering whether to sack him just before we gave him the call. It seems far too late to go into his inadequacies now, but Jean-Alain Boumsong's defending (well worth £9m) and enough hamstring injuries to occupy even the most workaholic physio are just the tip of the iceberg.

So with former West Ham boss Glenn Roeder and St Alan of the Gallowgate taking care of the team until a permanent replacement is found for the dour Scots bully, we face a rocky few months. Because who's fit to take over? I don't fancy Sam Allardyce (we should play better football than Bolton), hiring Steve Bruce would be a repeat of the Souness mistake, Sven is unlikely (although he may be tempted by Newcastle good ferry link to Scandinavia), and Shearer isn't ready to take over yet, even if he wanted to, something I find highly unlikely. Besides which, neither he nor Roeder is actually qualified to coach permanently.

Today hasn't brought me happiness, just the feeling of emptiness that comes with seeing ugly inevitability realised.

I think there's a much deeper problem than coaching staff, though: the chairman. As long as Fat Freddy's in the top job, the club's going nowhere. But that's another story.

I keep reminding people that we've never won a trophy in my life. It looks like I can safely use that line a while longer.

And while I'm here - is this really news, let alone a second story? It's what everyone's known for years. Slow day at the office, obviously.