Saturday, 5 May 2018

JRP's Guide to the Galaxy... Prague / Czechoslovakia!

The glorious Hotel Kupa. No really...

Czechoslovakia? Really? What was it about the place that tickled your fancy?
Picture this: it is 1990. Or perhaps 1992. Actually, I have no idea as that thing called memory is proving to be a precarious beast since the big 4-0 came along and bitch-slapped me around the chops. Where was I? Oh yes! Around the age of 15, I got to go overseas on a school trip. It was my first time abroad and I lied through my back teeth in order to get my parents to let me go. The one good thing about being a fat knacker with a haircut that guaranteed my virginity meant that I could play the sympathy card quite effectively. Which I did, quite often. Hurrah! I didn’t really give a monkey’s about Prague as a destination as such. I’d have pulled all the same stunts to go to a modern day Syria, to tell you the truth. Just think, I could’ve ended up being an ISIS bride, for the love of God! Anyway, being allowed to go on the trip meant that I got to go on an aeroplane and go ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at stewards who would vogue their way through the safety demonstrations. It meant that I got to walk in a foreign land, eat strange food and annoy the locals of a mysterious place where people used the letter ‘z’ in a way that made no sense whatsoever. Fancy!

What was it like then? Any good?
I remember it as a bit of a shit hole, but I liked it all the same. We stayed in a place called Hotel Kupa, which clearly took its inspiration from a communist take on Stephen King’s The Shining. Looking back, I should’ve run around screeching, ‘Here’s Johnny!’ while slamming axes into poorly constructed doors but I was probably too busy repelling people with my fright wig that wasn’t actually a wig. Think of a radioactive pervert that has been bred with an obese lamb with foot and mouth. Plus, I was a fat kid and not a fan of running - unless a Big Mac was somehow involved. Hotel Kupa consisted of two towering blocks of fag-stinking flats connected by a unsafe looking corridor near the top floor. It was all very old fashioned, bizarre, kitsch and fascinating - as you can see from the photo I’ve very kindly sourced for your voyeuristic pleasure… You’re welcome, or nemas zac, as the Czechs might say, depending on their mood. 

What was the food like?
Repugnant for the main part. Because we were on a school trip, we would spend our days pretending to be interested in whatever tour we were on - old squares full of unhealthy looking Czech pigeons and mad people talking wildly to their hand; museums that smelled of mothballs, unwashed hair and sadness; aimless wanderings around streets with buildings that looked as though they were made out of gingerbread. Each day, we would set off with a packed lunch that smelled of hot tripe. Have you ever smelled tripe? If you haven’t, it smells like deep-belly vomit and painful death. Whatever it was they gave us smelled just like that. Being the greedy little fat fucker that I was, the stench didn’t stop me WOLFING IT DOWN as though someone was going to steal it from me. Looking back, I was probably channelling my inner communist. What with my breath thereafter and the bespoke hair cut of doom, well… I have no words. Other than: I should have perhaps been taken into care. Or euthanized.

Were you a clumsy twat at all?
Of course. I made a right show of myself and it was all down to the mass consumption of the tripe baguettes that I would inhale on a daily basis. And if you’re wondering, not only did I eat mine, but I’d eat all the leftovers, of which there was quite a bit, given the fact that most people took one whiff of their proposed lunch and wept for their mothers. Not fatty bum bum though. Waste not, want not, oink, oink, oink. 

Righttio, so you know that I was a chubber, right? And you know that my hair kept Vidal Sassoon awake at night until the thought of it actually killed him. Well, to complete this triple whammy, you now need to consider my (then) awful fashion sense. I was all about mismatched tracksuits and baggy Madonna t-shirts covered in various canteen medals due to my inability to eat anything without throwing half of it down me. (Seriously, that euthanasia option would’ve been dead kind. Pun intentional.) In terms of my wardrobe, my favourite PIECES were hand selected from the Freeman’s catalogue. I know, classy, right? 

I saved my favourite tracksuit until the last day: an all-in-one (ie. boiler suit / onesie style) adidas creation. Head to toe in shell-suit black apart from three neon stripes that scorched the bitchtits. For some reason, I thought the fact that it was all-in-one was BEYOND fabulous. Fast forward 28 years and it turns out that these days, Rita Ora is modelling them. Oh, em and a whopping GEE - I was so ahead of my time, it’s fucking ridiculous. But - and there’s a rather large but here - during my last day in Czechoslovakia, my little black number became my UNDOING.

You see, the tripe-fest took its revenge in the form of the most vicious diarrhoea ever. I’m not being dramatic (actually that’s a lie, I l am being dramatic because I love it and it’s brilliant), but I’m surprised that my bottom Bisto didn’t hospitalise me. I’m not going to go into detail but I will say one thing: SPASTIC CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN FRENZY WITH COCOA KNOBS ON. 

Seeing as though I’m from a mining village in Nottinghamshire, my parents foresaw this gastro-catastrophe because as far as they were concerned, foreigners could not be trusted. Going abroad meant suspicious food: my Mam’s mate Maureen went to Benidorm for a week once upon a fuck up ago. Basically, the basic bitch spent five days in bed with a singed arsehole after a spiteful bout of the Gary-Glitters struck her down after she got ambitious with the tapas. Dad thought it served her right for eating tapas. 

As a result of Maureen-gate, my Mam made sure she packed me a life times supply of industrial strength Imodium, just in case. I sat on the toilet at 5am on the last day, cackling wildly at the recommended dose as I ate them with a fervour last seen as I attacked a mountain of tripe baguettes. Three packets later and I went back to bed, hoping that my casual overdose had done the trick. And so it seemed, a few hours later, it had: after a bit of stomach pain, I sat on the loo and rather than feel the Earth fall out of my peachy money-maker, I produced a prolonged, rather melodic fart. And as we all know, when you’ve been crapping through the eye of a needle, farting for the first time and not shitting yourself is a victory. It meant that I was on the road to recovery. 

So it was with more than a modicum of relief that I climbed into my all-in-one tracksuit. The final day meant killing time by mooching about the city centre until it was time to head to the airport. We arrived there in the early afternoon and after going through security and settling down near the gate, a wave of pain shimmied through my belly, accompanied by that particular sound that you get when you have stomach issues: you’re not quite sure if it’s an odd gurgle, a muffled cat meow, a ancient creaking door or just Satan caterwauling in your bowels. On this occasion, there was no time to decide - the pain told me that I needed to find a toilet and fast. 

To cut a shitty story short, I located the nearest loo and performed a Houdini act in order to get my rather cumbersome tracksuit past my thighs and into a safe position. I then sat on my own Czech throne in COMPLETE SHOCK as buckets of strange smelling water erupted from me. I was convinced that this was something beyond a normal dose of the runs: it was clearly dysentery or perhaps cholera. Maybe ebola. I dunno. 

After what seemed like an eternity, my cursed bowel was spent and I was left to clean myself up. Given the fact that I was in the third world, I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that the toilet roll wasn’t something that playful puppies could run around the house with… This was a cruel amalgamation of cheap tracing paper and a a brillo pad. Needless to say, I blocked the bastard bog up, didn’t I? I flushed and flushed until the water crept towards the brim and then joyfully cascaded down the off-white porcelain, creating pools of contaminated water that took my feet under siege. At which point, I decided to do a runner. I mean, why wouldn’t you? 

My escape route was blocked by an elderly man who was waiting to clean said toilet. As I drank in his image, I panicked, wondering what would happen if he realised what I’d done to his shit-house, which was, quite frankly, not fit for purpose, thanks to me. Hopefully, my fright-wig non-wig would distract him from his duties and all would be well with the world, but, alas. No.

As soon as I got to the sink, I saw him disappear into the soiled cubicle only to reappear seconds later all scary faced and shouty of voice. ‘Sir! Sir!’ he bellowed. Or at least I think that’s what he said He might have been offering a similar sounding word that actually meant ‘bastard’ in Czech. Either way, I wasn’t sticking around to find out. I legged it straight back to the group who were all huddled around, smiling, laughing and probably feeling fucking great about not having cholera or whatever. I, meanwhile, shrunk into my seat and tried to look invisible, which was a bit of stretch when you think about it. But it all turned out to be okay - the old man had not followed me so - hurrah - I had got away with it.

Or at least I thought I had. Karma really is a scat-loving bitch. 

As I began to relax, a strange smell invaded my nostrils. A smell like… Tripey diarrhoea. I was confused. Like, really confused. And then I saw the most horrific thing I have ever seen: an errant streak of chocolate-brown, watery diarrhoea sitting victoriously on my collar. Talk about mortified. My all in one was sullied and I couldn’t even take the bastard thing off. Instead I tried to surreptitiously wipe it away with an already used napkin. Even though I managed to mop it up, the smell remained so I reached into my hand luggage, took out my deodorant and sprayed liberally, which was brilliant because not only did it leave a white streak on an otherwise black item but it didn’t even remove the smell of poorly poo. It just made it more sinister...I had to sit like that all the way back to Heathrow and then from Heathrow to St Pancras and then from St Pancras back to Nottingham. And then from Nottingham to home. About seven hours in all. Rotten. Vile. Ugh. 

What was the weather like?
Who gives a shit. Apart from me, obviously. I crapped my all in one. 

Was it expensive? 
You can’t put a price on dignity, can you?

Would you go back?
Nah, you’re alright. Besides, they probably wouldn’t let me in. Bastards.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Alternative Career: Rapper

PROS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when I am alone in my car, I am SUPREMELY talented at singing. No one likes to hear someone boast, but I kid you not, when I am behind the wheel, I sound like a beautiful amalgamation of Adele, Michael Buble, Madonna and, erm, Pavarotti (when he was alive, obvs.) My vocal tone has light and shade. Powerful but emotive. I can do just the right amount of WIBBLE. And don’t even get me started on the HARMONIES, bitches. I don’t need to grasp at the air and throw it to the floor in an act of melodramatic vocal defiance. I don’t need to stand up from a bar stool to reinforce a key change. Oh no: la voice speaks for itself. How I’ve not won the X-Factor is like an Countdown conundrum to me. Well, actually, I’ve solved that particular puzzle, if I’m entirely honest...

(Whitney) Houston: we have a problem. And that problem is OTHER PEOPLE’S EARS. As soon as someone comes within ear shot of my rather delicious tra-la-la-la-la-ing, it’s like the gift simply evaporates. For some unfathomable, extremely selfish reason, it does not want to be shared. It’s that shy, I can hear it slip away mid-note. One minute I’m alone and I’m Madonna-ing my tits of with impunity and the next thing you know, someone has come within hearing distance and my voice suddenly sounds like a sack of kittens being hacked to death in an acid bath. Suddenly I’m grasping for notes and I’m as flat as a witch’s tit. The pendulum then swings the other way and in the next breath I’m that sharp, my voice could slit your wrists, which would be a happy release, let me tell you. 

I might be the wrong side of forty (I know, shocking: Oil of Olay, fresh air and Jesus, babes. That’s the secret) but I still want to be a pop star. Besides, Eminem is nearly 46 and Jay-Z says he’s 48 - yeah, and the rest, love! Seeing as though my golden larynx is a shy beast, I might try my hand at rapping. I mean, it’s just talking isn’t it? I can do that. And to coin a phrase, it’s a piece of piss. I’ve just been into my Apple Music account and listened to Drake, who sells shed-loads of music. You might call it music. I wouldn’t. To these ears, he sounds like a tuneless, camp Darlek. There’s no discernible melody, no hands-to-the-air-808-drums driven chorus. It’s just a strange, vo-codered unintelligible rant that goes NOWHERE. In the background there is a sample of someone else’s song but basically, he’s just shouted a load of shit over it. I can do that. No bother. I can wear a baggy tracksuit and and flail my arms about while repeatedly pointing at the floor for good reason. I’m also rather good at swearing which seems to be a lyrical staple of most rap songs. You effing titting shit bag mother troubler! See, I’m CLEARLY a natural. Bo! Also, piss! 

CONS: Erm, well, rappers seem to take themselves quite seriously, which could be a problem. Apparently, they’re not a fan of the gays for the most part, although that’s just something I heard from someone - I can’t quite make out what they’re blabbering on about, so I can neither confirm nor deny. The clothes might be a problem too: I refuse to wear my trousers halfway down my legs. Not only does it look ridiculous, but knowing my luck, I’d end up tripping over my own tangled knee caps as I ended up in a dignity-free heap on the floor while screaming, ‘Dis party is well lit, yeah!’ even though the party was me, alone, in my bathroom, foetal, clutching an own-brand swiss roll. Yikes. 

I also cannot weat any form of hat or cap - I don’t have the right shaped head. I simply look simple. And another thing: what would I call myself? Feminem? Majohnna? MC Spazwank? Bog Roll Spunkburst? I couldn’t. I just COULDN’T. Besides, isn’t there something faintly tragic about a man wearing costume jewellery and being over 40. Even though I look 28. Cough. Shit. BO! 

CHANCES: Despite my flashes of rhyming genius, I’m not sure that the record companies would be keen to recognise my talent. Whatever way you look at it, I’m not authentically street. Not since I discovered Waitrose and M&S Foodhalls anyhow. To put it another way: I ain’t got no guns, no disco / record exec is my foe / I once had a manky toe / hurt like a motherlicker - BO! / Man, don’t annoy me, don’t be a twat / Your moaning is getting old hat / Can’t wear a baseball cap because my head is too fat / Lit, do-wop, motherfucker on toast, brap-brap / excuse me madam, but where is the toilet?

OMG - Chrismas number one is in the bag, innit, motherfucker!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

JRP's Guide to the Galaxy... Berlin!

Berlin? Really? What was it about the place that tickled your fancy?
I’d always wanted to go to Germany. As a child, we never went on holiday as a complete family. Every couple of years, Dad would drive me, my brother and my Mam to an abandoned caravan in a soggy field, somewhere near the east coast. Usually, we’d go for the last week of September when it was a) cheap and b) cold. Once there, he would simply dump us and go back home for the week, where he would make sure no one stole the sofa by laying on it. And as he always said, that telly wasn’t going to watch itself, was it? Don’t feel too bad for him though (cough, splutter, choke): he got to go away now and again but rather than slum it with his family in Skeg-Vegas, he would nip off to Germany of all places and come back with tales of his shenanigans and an odd selection of gifts. (Speaking of which, please never buy me gingerbread. I will not appreciate it. You may as well chuck your 2 euros in the bin, because that’s where the shitty gingerbread will be going. Oh yes.) Aren’t I ungrateful? Oh well. I blame the parents. The heart wants what it wants. And it doesn’t want gingerbread or a week in a damp caravan that smells of burnt toast and mould. Sorry, it just doesn’t. It wanted to go to fucking Germany!

As if to twist the knife, Dad insisted that we choose German when we started secondary school. I think he thought that he would be able to help, having acquired the ability to order a large beer, some chips and, knowing him, a blow job. I quite liked it for the first couple of years. I even wanted to go on the German exchange, but as that would mean we would have to have put a child up for a week at our house - where no one was ever allowed - it was never going to happen. I ended up dropping the subject when it came to my GCSE options. By this point, I was thoroughly confused by the language. We’d gone from learning delicious little phrases such as um die ecke and mein kuli ist kaput, ja to putting ge- in front of everything in the name of tenses. I just didn’t get it. Besides, there was a rumour going around that the teacher had skid marks and I couldn’t possibly take him seriously after that. So, it was a with a clear conscience that I bade the language a casual auf weidersehen at the age of 15. 

I’ve been lucky enough to travel around most of Europe, but up until recently, Germany had always managed to elude me. I was supposed to go on a work jolly years ago, but I resigned a few weeks before I was supposed to go. Because I had to. Because I would’ve been sacked if I didn’t. Because my then-boss was a hateful old hag. And because I told her so. I was such a Marxist at the time. See, a German!

Once upon a doomed relationship ago, I was supposed to go to Germany for a long weekend. I booked it way in advance of the actual fact, but by the time the trip came round, my now-ex had spent all of my money and evaporated into thin air, which is ironic, seeing as though he was as fat as fuck.

But lo and behold, in February, I popped my German cherry - a fruit they appear quite taken with as a nation. My verdict? Fantastiche, bebe! 

Go on...
I loved it. We were there for four days and really made our way around the place. It’s not a pretty city, not glamorous at all, but it's fascinating and full of history and things to see. There are flashes of beauty - the Berlin Dom, the Reichstag, Brandenberg Gate, for instance - but these are enveloped in what feels like a stern, industrial cocoon. I don’t mean that to sound negative - for me it was part of the appeal, where communist east meets capitalist west, although even the west side had quite a 1980s feel to it. Again, not a bad thing - just an observation.

I like how the Germans have embraced World War II: the events leading up to it, the war itself and the terrible atrocities that were committed followed by the aftermath. There are things I would definitely recommend taking in as a result. Checkpoint Charlie is a must-see, as are the remnants of the Berlin Wall and both the memorials to the Jews and the gays who were killed. We also visited the House of the Wannsee Conference - where the Final Solution was decided upon. Weirdly, this was one of the most beautiful places. Gorgeous views, quiet, peaceful. It’s almost impossible to reconcile the serenity with the hideousness of what the place represents. Sachsenhausen, the concentration camp, is worth a visit - on a par with Auschwitz. Having visited both, I’d say that they’re equally as powerful.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: you’re on your holidays and while a bit of culture and history is all very well, you also want to have a laugh? Fear not, there are plenty of chuckles to be had, eyebrows to raise and pearls to clutch. You see, while Paris is romantic, Berlin is downright pervy. Every bar we went to had a toilet that was only accessible via a dark room. Filth! But also kind of funny. Some bars still allow smoking - boo! - so I decided to check my coat in when we arrived at one place as I didn’t want it stinking of fags. Or cigarettes, for that matter. Anyway, there I was, being a good Brit and happily queuing up when a man barged in front of me. I attempted to speak German but three words in and I reverted to English before finishing with a flurry of what turned out to be rather poor Spanish. As a result, I just let him continue in front of me. I stood there, shocked to my very foundations - a bit like Kylie - as the chap took off his jacket, followed by his t-shirt, his jeans, and then his underpants, leaving himself completely starkers. I felt overdressed as I ordered beers in my jeans and shirt sandwiched between another bloke who had lost all of his clothes and another chap who was only wearing a pair of chaps. Of course they were crotch-less. 

One night we went out and decided to try a bar just round the corner from the hotel. At first, it appeared closed but then we realised that we had to ring a bell. A few moments passed before an old man who looked like a cross between Dot Cotton and John Prescott stuck his head around the door and said, ‘Na-ked parteeey, ja?’ Erm, naked party no, if it’s all the same. I mean, it had taken me nearly an hour to get ready.

There was little respite at the hotel - we went to use the health spa, only to find two blokes happily bumming in the steam room. I didn’t really fancy the jacuzzi after that. All that simmering in a melting pot of other people’s lusty secretions. Nein, danke. 

I’m sure you can find less pervy places if you look. We didn’t. Have an open mind and laugh at everyone. That’s my sage advice. 

What was the food like?
I ate currywurst, which was alright, although I’m pretty confident that I don’t ever need to eat it again. To be honest, it was a very large sausage and it repeated on me. For Valentine’s Day, we ate at the top of the TV Tower, which was an amazing experience. I felt strangely drawn to the aesthetics of the building - at 368 metres, it dominates the Berlin skyline and looks old fashioned in a futuristic way, if that makes any sense at all. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s like a huge ball on top of a column. It feels like when they built it (in 1969, fact fans), they tried to make it look space-agey and ultra modern. At the time, I suppose it must have, but today? Not so much. It looks like something out of The Jetsons. Again, not a bad thing, just an observation. Besides, I loved it - the restaurant revolved so you got a 360 degree view of the whole of the city and could clearly see where east met west. Dinner wasn’t cheap, but it was beautiful and - coupled with the ambience of the place and the experience of looking down on the city - definitely worth it.

Were you a clumsy twat at all?
Knowing me, probably, but I can’t recall anything too catastrophic. I got lost coming back from the toilet during dinner at the TV tower. The fact that the restaurant revolved but the toilets didn’t meant that when I returned  to what I thought was our table, I thought Keith had done a runner. In his place was an elderly man, which temporarily made me wonder how long I’d been peeing for. 

What was the weather like?
Berlin in February felt pretty much like London in February. ie. cold for the main part. It rained one day, snowed one day and was sunny for the remainder. We had to wrap up, even in the bars - unlike the locals. 

Was it expensive?
Not particularly although I do get resentful at the pitiful exchange rate. Brexit can lick my left one, etc. Rant, rave, spit!

Would you go back?
I would. Definitely beats Skeggy. Perhaps next time, I’d like to go to the Christmas markets, even though I am a committed Grinch. Just no gingerbread, though. Okay?

Monday, 26 March 2018

JRP's Guide to the Galaxy... France!

France? Really? What was it about the place that tickled your fancy?
I love the French for a number of reasons: they’re mainly socialists and they don’t give an eff, a jeff or even a sizeable merde about anything. The second that something doesn’t suit them - like having to work more than 35 hours a week - they down tools, set fire to their bras, block the roads and refuse to budge until the government gives in. Then I expect they take part in a collective shrug, say, baise toi or something else entirely French and piss off down the pub. We should be more like them. As an education professional (ahem), I once went on strike. What a pointless waste of that time that was. Bitter parents nationwide erupted in fury: apparently we have enough holidays, so fighting for decent employment rights was not to be sympathised with. In effect, I simply lost a days pay and got the pay cut and pension sledgehammer we were protesting about in the first place. Thanks Britain. You wankers. Had we been a bit more French about it, we’d have secured a 10% pay increase, a gold plated pension and castrated the then-Prime Minister, David Cameron, which would’ve been tres bien, wouldn’t it?

What sort of trip was it? 
Jollies, mainly. Short trips. I’ve been a few times. Paris to see Madonna (twice), Rennes for the weekend and a couple of day trips. I once accidentally went for the Bastille - it was packed and we got chased up a road by a mad woman with awful teeth. Maybe her dentist was on strike. 

Best bit?
Seeing Madge (Drowned World tour 2001, Reinvention Tour 2004) was always a pleasure. To be honest, the other times were mired in disaster... 

Fix It Again Tomorrow...
Worst bit?
Perhaps the first time I went to France, straight after uni. It was the Summer of 1999. At the time, the world was in love with former heterosexual Ricky Martin who insisted on Livin’ La Vida Loca. Me and my favourite chum in the whole wide world, Becky, decided to have a long weekend away from all the stress of having to do one of those job things that you're forced to do once you're done with education. At the time I was pissing about selling vacuum cleaners over the phone (no, really, I was) and so Becks and I chucked everything we owned into the back of her car and decided to drive around France for a few days. At the time it seemed like a great idea... 

The thing is, she owned a Fiat and so as you might expect, things were soon to go awry. I recently learned that Fiat stands for Fix It Again Tomorrow but with France, there was no tomorrow. Less than 24 hours into the journey, her car rather selfishly decided to blow up. At the precise moment that it went BANG, we were legging it away from the seasoned jalopy as quick as we could. Drama alert: we’d been cruising along the motorway when the stench of petrol suddenly swept through the car. We pulled off as soon as we could and as we reached the end of the slip road, the car stalled and promptly burst into flames. Au secours, etc! Fortunately we had decent insurance (although in retrospect, I’m surprised that they didn’t reject the claim on the basis that we were in a Fiat.) They sorted us a hotel for the night in the middle of nowhere and we had to play charades in order to secure basic toiletries from the non-English speaking hotel receptionist. Later that night Becky and I sat by a lake, illuminated only by moonlight, slightly pissed on wine, smoking cigarettes and singing songs by The Beautiful South... Actually, what am I talking about, this being the worst bit? This is one of my favourite memories ever! In fact, I’m pleased the bastard car blew up. And besides, it's no secret that I love a crisis. Cackle!

A few years later, Becky and I drove over again - this time in a Ford - for the sole purpose of buying shit loads of cheap duty-free wine. The thing is, either the French were on strike or they were having one of their many public holidays. Long story short: everywhere was shitting shut. Rather than arrive home with more booze than you can shake a cirrhosis-flavoured stick at, I came home with a bad stomach after eating a ropey burger from the only place that was open. Le fuck!

The other time I went to France was when I went to Rennes with my ex. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that he had a face like a rusty piss flap. Also, he was boring. A huge great cluster-fuck of dullness, in fact. As was the weekend. I just got twatted on wine and spoke what little French I could to unimpressed French people: viva la France! Les Miserables! Jo le taxi! La disco a besoin de vouz! Salope! Nique ta mere! Ta gueule! Casse-toi! C’est des conneries! (The last five are swear words, by the way.) 

Were you a clumsy twat at all?
Not that I can remember. I mean, it wasn’t me that blew the car up. I probably broke something while I was there. Like the law, perhaps. 

What was the food like? 
It was alright, apart from the shits-inducing horse burger. When we were in Paris, the mushrooms tasted exactly like goats cheese, but that’s because they were goats cheese. We ordered in French and it turns out that while I can swear in French, I can’t order food correctly. If only I’d wanted a large portion of ‘this is bullshit’ with a side order of ‘fuck your mother’ and ‘buggery.’ No wonder people voted for Brexit, eh? 

What was the weather like?
Oooh, it was lovely and hot. Especially when we stood next to the burning car which sent the sky black with the smoke. The French fire brigade were useless by the way. About as much use as tits on a fish. 

Was it expensive?
I sold a kidney for one of the Madonna concerts; I would’ve become a rent boy for the other, but the bloke wanted a refund. Rude! When the car went boom, we watched everything we had of any value go up in flames, but we were able to claim that back on the insurance along with the leather jacket, the Rolex, a pair of fake breasts and a few other bits that I never owned in the first place. 

Would you go back?
Only to see Madonna. 

Top tips: 
Don’t go to Rennes with your ex unless you want to die from chronic boredom; check before you go that France isn’t on holiday - they probably will be. Don’t go in a Fiat. Other than that, knock yourself out, mon amour.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Disaster Struck: Passport Photo Horror...

Why is that passport photos are universally cruel? I recently had to renew mine and as a result, I fully expect to be refused entry at border controls the world over. Either that, or be quarantined for six months. Or possibly shot, depending on where my fancy takes me.

No tea, no shade and all that jazz, but I look like an exhausted, pouting pervert suffering from a recently ruptured spleen. One eye appears bigger than the other, as though I'm wearing an invisible monocle designed for a blind cyclops; a cyclops that is perhaps in the midst of a minor cerebral bleed. It’s a tragedy, as photos go. An absolute disgrace. 

I think I may have found the only post office that doesn’t have one of those hideous booths with their steering wheel-esque seats that I hate having to touch on account of all the farty, shitty arses that have been there. I can’t help but imagine rotten people with poor wiping techniques, worms and a complete disregard for hand washing. There was none of that. None of that having to try and fit my oddly spherical head into a coconut shaped oval on the screen. None of that getting stressed out because you decided that looking like Sloth out of The Goonies on the first attempt wasn’t okay so you decided to retake it and now, with one chance left, you look like his even uglier brother. I tell you what: those photo booths are impatient fuckers. What happened to the customer always being right? Actually, that’s factually inaccurate: I’m old enough to know that the customer is usually a bit of an entitled twat. 

Or are they? In lieu of said photo booth, I had to make do with June, a Post Office worker, apparently charged with taking terrible photos with a bizarre hand held camera. A few observations about June before we go any further:
  • She was probably about 97 years old.
  • She had a slight tremor in her dominant hand and other mobility issues.
  • Her beard was thicker than mine.
  • She told lies. 
  • She was possibly blind. 
  • She smelled of hand cream and piss and there was animal hair on her cardigan.
I did as I was told: I stood against the off-white wall she as she stumbled towards me like Julie Walters in the Two Soups sketch. Once she snapped my image, she considered her handiwork and threw me a semi-toothless grin. 
‘Beautiful!’ she lied. I smiled weakly. ‘Would you like to see it?’ she asked, her tone a tad too optimistic for my liking. 
‘Not really,’ I trilled, much to her chagrin. I wasn’t being rude - the heating had clearly been turned to Sub-Tropical and as a result, I had a sweaty back and bitch-tits combo. Gorgeous, no? I just wanted to pay my money and get out of there. Plus, her beard was starting to worry me. 

In retrospect, scurrying out of there like a rodent escaping from a weather-worn drainpipe was a mistake that will haunt my travels for the next ten years. I have buyer’s remorse. I have a passport photo that looks like the perfect blend of a cheaply printed charity envelope and a wanted poster. Why the passport office don’t allow Instagram filters or a liberal dash of Photoshop is a mystery to me in this day and age. I feel like my statutory rights have been violated.


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Morning IS Broken...

I am trying to revolutionise my life, possibly because I have read one too many inspirational quotes or used too many filters on the same photo and reality feels somewhat lacking. I mean, there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there? I want to be serene and calm. A vision of chilled splendour, negotiating life’s path like a swan gliding cooly through still waters. Instead I often feel like a chubby shambles, ricocheting wildly around the course, gasping for breath and wondering where my next syndrome is coming from. 

I have beautiful intentions. I am an incessant list maker. I plan, prioritise, prepare and manage to wing it through to the end of the day when I stumble home and convince myself that’s it okay to self medicate. Maybe that’s what we all do. Maybe this is the ‘postmodern condition’ I read about in at article at uni but failed to quite grasp what it was going on about - in my defence it was boring AF and I was probably drunk. 

I know where I’m going wrong. It’s my morning routine. Someone on Twitter recently said that they rise at 5am and go to the gym before returning home with their protein-shake and spending half an hour meditating and being all mindful while sipping their organic mungo-bongo bean tea and shimmying into their day all purposeful and determined. I half want to be that person. I also half want to stab the smug twat. That is nothing like my life, which goes a little something like this... 

22:30: Go to bed. Put radio on low and listen to people talking shit to distract internal mental thoughts keeping me awake.
22:42: Realise that people talking shit is irritating me. Turn off radio and treat self to large swig of Night Nurse. Delicious!
00:12: Wake up for no apparent reason and believe that it is time to get up. Continue to stay awake for hours on end, cursing ye Gods and only managing to fall back to sleep approximately four minutes before my alarm decides to rip through the air, mocking me as it signals the start of the day. 
06:00: Alarm sounds. Subconscious incorporates said alarm into whatever dream I’m having resulting in a spectacular failure to wake up.
06:09: Wake up after being prodded mercilessly by landlady who has been disturbed by my alarm. Wonder to self why she is standing above me waving a bread knife and going on about waking up next door.
06:10: Tell self that I ought to get up and do the 20 minute yoga course that I’ve paid an arm and a leg for in the hope that I become more bendy and, like, y’know, zen. Instead I find nirvana in man’s greatest invention – the snooze button – and replace head on pillow in an attempt to get back to the brilliant dream I was having before being rudely awakened by possibly murderous landlady who is currently muttering to herself loudly on the landing. She’ll disturb the neighbours if she’s not careful.
06.11: Completely fail to get back to the dream, but soundly achieve getting back to sleep.
06.20: Question whole point of life and universe as alarm rings out for a second time.
06:20: Fart liberally. Giggle.
06:22: Get up in total darkness. Wonder if I’ve actually gone blind in the night as I chip my pelvis on the chest of drawers. Deliver favourite expletive: bollocks, showing total disregard for neighbours, but they’re retired anyway, so not only am I already out of fucks to give, but also compassion for those who don’t have to go to work. Bastards. 
06:23: Have sit down wee-wee with head held dramatically in hands whilst wondering how it could possibly be time to wake up. Stifle sob at injustice of life in general.
06:24: Catch sight of self in mirror and recoil in horror. Stumble into shower whilst considering cut price face lift in Bulgaria. Wonder to self if applying thick bleach to face will result in successful DIY face peel.
06:28: Get out of shower, avoiding mirror at all costs. Walk into door. Deliver semi-expletive: fanny.
06:30: Sit at kitchen table, take out phone and search for Mindfulness app. Tell self that I am sanguine, assertive man of substance. 
06:31: Find self watching videos of cats beating dogs up and drunk people falling over on YouTube.
06.33: Fart.
06:48: Notice time. Descend into panic. Flail about like ruinous imbecile.
06:50: Attempt to drink coffee and get dressed at the same time. Invariably have an accident involving both. Explete with impunity: shit, fuck, arse, etc.
06:59: Liberally apply fine fragrance, clean teeth, engage in morning song, sculpt hair and prance out of bathroom as though I’ve just stepped out of a salon, etc.
07:25: Wonder why the last few minutes have inexplicably sped up as though I’m trapped in some kind of vortex or time warp. 
07:27: Find self performing the Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s just a jump to the left... 
07:28: Find self in heap on floor after jump to left ends in unmitigated disaster. Become emotionally distraught at impending lateness. Have a relaxing swear: bastard, bugger.
07:31: Leave house, 11 minutes behind schedule.
07:33: Return to house for car keys/wallet/security pass for work/phone/left shoe.
07:35: Get in car. System up, windows down.
07:37: Still sitting on drive, deciding which playlist I want to accompany me to work.
07:38: Wave at neighbours who are gesturing something to me through the windows. It looks unsavoury. Am sure that they didn’t fight in the war to end up like this. Oh well, they’ll be dead soon. They should take up Mindfulness before it’s too late, eh? 
11:12: Arrive at work, trembling and exhausted at evil commute where I have been stopped by every red light, stuck behind nine buses, three dustbin lorries, a plethora of road works and an errant donkey that has possibly escaped from somewhere sinister. 
11:13: Tell self that the day is salvageable and that I will achieve all my goals on my list.
11:14: Rewrite list. Replace ‘go to the gym’ with ‘go home, watch Netflix and drink wine.’ 
11:15: Feel smug at impending victory.


Saturday, 24 February 2018

A Scene From My Up and Coming Nervous Breakdown...

Once upon a fuck up ago, I used to be a ruinous hypochondriac. Dark days, people. Dark days. One minute I’d be fine and the next, I’d stumble across a bruise that I couldn’t account for, or a strangely placed pimple and I’d start writing out my will. If I ate beetroot, I’d desperately ring an ambulance the next morning, telling them that my neon-pink turd nuggets were surely a sign of massive internal bleeding. I once mistakenly self diagnosed a rare form of cancer when in fact it transpired that I had a sweat rash. I have misinterpreted hangovers as the onset of meningitis (the one that kills you, obviously) and there was one time I could have sworn blind I was close to death but it turned out that I was accidentally listening to Mariah Carey.

These days, I’m in remission from this hideous condition, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear. Hip, hip and a hearty hurrah.That said, I have recently made a grim discovery in respect of my mental health. There’s no easy way to say this, so I shall just spit it out, as though I am suffering from tourettes syndrome, which I am not. Not yet, anyway. (Soapy tit-wank! Oniony Knackers on toast! Ooops, maybe I am.) Anyway, here goes. My name is Johnny Red Pants and I’ve been afflicted with - drum roll if you please - logophobia - the fear of words. 

Obviously not all of the words. I quite like words such as: alcohol, food, snuggles, shag and fresh - especially when the latter is coupled with sheets. I love some words for their sound alone: possum, flume and soporific. Certain words make me laugh for no discernible reason, other than I am rather childish and possibly a bit simple: spaz, moist, flaps and baps, for instance. Snigger and chortle!

However, there are some words that send me the other way. These are words that, for some reason, make me squirm or break out into hives, which I will then misinterpret as a sign of terminal illness. Words such as…

Pork. Say it slowly, placing an emphasis on the initial ‘p’ and the final ‘k’. Suddenly, it becomes the serial killer of words. Maybe the Jews and the Muslims are onto something. 

Foreskin. Again, nothing to do with the aforementioned religions. It’s just the sound of the word makes me shudder. I blame the parents. Well, my Dad at least. He used to use the word ‘foreskin’ as his filler word of choice, classy bird that he was. He’d be all like, ‘What time do I need to be there… Is it… foreskin… Five o’clock or… foreskin! Half past…’ Meanwhile, I’d be in the corner, gagging and secretly hoping I’d been switched as a baby and this was all just a terrible, terrible mistake. 

Curd. I hear the word curd and I think what might lurk under a problematic foreskin. Sometimes, I hate myself. Now is one of those times. 

Maggot. Such a wretched word. Not only because I find it slightly onomatopoeic, but also it reminds me of my ex’s unmentionables. And then I think of foreskin and curd and suddenly, I’m self harming with a bagel. Fancy that. 

Minge. Nothing to with my penchant for poofery. Even if I was a fervent breeder, I would never dream of saying, ‘Oh, love, do us a favour and get your minge out, will you?’ When I was a child, people referred to it as either a fu-fu or a tuppence. And then someone came along and named the front bum a minge. Life was never the same after that. That’s probably why I’m so gay. It was probably my Dad, thinking about it. He has a lot to answer for. Actually, there are quite a few minge-synonyms that aren’t very nice: clunge, quim and that old favourite, FANNY. I love the fact that the Americans think a fanny is an arse and walk around with their fanny packs on as though it’s 1993. Haven’t they heard of pockets? 

Discharge. It’s no coincidence that this word follows minge. I think I need to lay down. 

Nom. Often accompanied by a terrible picture of a plate of fetid swill on social media. You scroll through your newsfeed and chance upon what looks like a dimly lit plate of fried cock-sack. The person responsible has added - without humour - the caption, ‘NOM NOM NOM’ and added the local carvery as the location of the picture. All of a sudden I can’t decide if I feel murderous or I’m having suicide ideation. 

Gosh. In order to convey surprise or shock, you can’t quite beat a good expletive. Maybe I do have tourettes after all. What’s absolutely not okay, is saying, ‘Gosh!’ when someone has told you that they’re riddled. It’s just not okay. Use something more appropriate, like, shit, fuck, or, ‘oh bollocks!’ Also, do not, under any circumstances, say ‘Oh em gee.’ This will render you a complete MINGE. With added discharge. And possibly a helping of curd.

Tummy. Only okay if you’re three years old and possibly a bit basic. Other than that, I’m not having it. 

Farmer. It’s not so much the sound of the word, but the image it conjures up in my bonce (great word that, bonce). I hear ‘farmer’ and I think of the smell of horse shit, desolate fields, poor dentistry and the fact that my Dad always said he’d never met a decent one because they were all Tories. Fair enough. 

I dread the day someone stops me to tell me about the maggots they have found on a pork chop or the discharge coming from their minge before suddenly breaking off and saying, ‘Oh gosh, look at that farmer’s tummy! He’s obviously gone overboard nomming on the curd! He needs to lose weight otherwise he’ll never see his foreskin again.’

Please send help. 

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Etiquette and Other Pretensions...

The more discerning of you may have worked out that I am not the classiest bird in the menagerie. Chuck in my propensity towards clumsiness and what you’re looking at is a slightly tubby finishing school nightmare. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a heathen. Like most people my age, I know to use my cutlery from the outside inwards thanks to the film Titanic. I always stand up when I meet someone for the first time; I recently discovered that you should never fasten the bottom button of a waistcoat (so why have it, hmmm?) and as much as I might sometimes want to, I refrain from burping and farting at the dinner table, mainly because I usually eat my dinner directly from the packaging while sitting on the sofa. So what? Sue me. And also, screw you. 

Personally, I blame the parents. I mean, thanks to them I’m rather good at manners thank-you-please, but in terms of social etiquette, forget it. They just couldn’t be arsed, bless them. They thought that such a carry on was tantamount to unnecessary ostentation and that itself was a social crime punishable by a swift punch to the throat. We had our own form of etiquette at home: 

1. Don’t chew loudly - although it was rather deliciously called, ‘smacking your chops’ in our house. Smack your chops and expect a smack around the chops, simple as that. Your choice. 

2. The youngest (ie. me) had to sacrifice their seat if we had company, which was rare. Visitors were discouraged at all costs, mainly because the carpet was vile and the walls needed painting. Sadly, Dad was far too busy to do this because he had to make sure that no one stole the sofa by laying on it for the majority of the day. If someone did pop in, I would be immediately relegated to what was called the dog shelf ie. the floor. ‘Fat Head,’ they would say, ‘get on the dog shelf.’ Why was I called Fat Head? Because while occupying the aforementioned dog shelf, my sizeable bonce would often obscure the television. The fact that we left it on was less to do with bad manners and more to do with quality of the unwanted company. Yes, Aunty Eilleen, I mean you and your jam tarts that were drier than nun’s unmentionables. Honestly, it was like eating compacted sawdust. Didn’t stop me shoving them down me though. Looking back, we never had treats like biscuits and pop, which makes me wonder how I became such a fat kid. 

3. Don’t ring the telephone after 9pm unless someone has died. In fact, don’t even do it then. As much as I might love a crisis, my parents couldn’t cope with one after the watershed. Besides, It’s perhaps better to deal with a catastrophe after a full night of sleep, don’t you think? So yeah, either die at a more convenient time or simply let us know during office hours, thanks. 

4. Don’t be pretentious. This was conveyed through telepathy and sneering. Pretension, according to the Rules of the House, wasn’t just being slightly affected or flaunting your brand new Puma trainers while everyone else scuttled around in a pair of old, chewed up Dunlops, it was deviating from the norm in any way at all. Having a conservatory on the back of your house? Pretentious! Drinking red wine? Who the in name of dry buggery do you think you are? A new car? Ridiculous! What’s wrong with an unreliable old jalopy that only starts when it feels like it? When a neighbour started eating pasta in the late 1980s, it was widely ridiculed. There was widespread disbelief that the potato had been jilted in favour of this strange, foreign swill. As for rice? Only acceptable in a pudding, which we only had at Christmas. You know why? Because pudding was PRETENTIOUS, as was holidaying abroad, owning a caravan and, inexplicably, kitchen roll. I mean, what’s wrong with the sink cloth? My mother wouldn’t allow a microwave through the door on account of the fact that someone she knew owned one and this particular woman ‘smelled funny,’ which wasn’t actually funny at all. After she died, Dad got one although it was never referred to as the microwave. It was simply called, ‘the Michael.’ I once took my Dad some moist toilet tissue just to see what would happen. He nearly had a bleed. 

5. Only use the back door, never the front. Although thinking about my unrelenting poofery, maybe I took this one too literally. The front door was reserved for the gas man, the Queen (should she fancy it) and bailiffs. Everyone else? Get round the back, or better still, don't come at all! 

Thursday, 4 January 2018

New Year Resolution #1: Improving My Knowledge of... Wine.

Looking back, I’ve always been quite the boffin. It’s no wonder I got picked on at school: fat, gay, an ardent repeller of fashion and a hairstyle that was more like a cry for help than anything else. I would insist on sitting at the front - friend-free - exchanging my homework for an A-grade and winning every academic award going: 100% attendance, most merits, most likely to die a virgin - my trophy cabinet was a thing of envy amongst the socially destitute. 

In my defence, I really liked learning stuff. Even now, as I stare down middle age with an arched eyebrow, I’m thrilled to the core when I acquire a new skill or bother to look up a word that I’ve been meaning to for a long time. Like pedagogical. It’s only taken me about 19 years to look that word up. In fact, I’ve just done it now, thanks to the Google. Apparently, it relates to teaching. Funny that. 

This year, rather than make a load of New Year’s resolutions which will simply result in spectacular failure and self loathing by January 8th, throughout 2018 I think I’m going to attempt extending my knowledge on a range of subjects that have always intrigued me. Starting with a favourite subject of mine: wine.

It’s no secret that I’m an enthusiastic consumer, but I am by no means a connoisseur. I am eager, but ignorant. Sod the pretension and just hand me a glass will you? Or a mug. I’m not fussy. White, rose, red, turps, whatever. I’ll have a large glass, thanks. In fact, I’ll have a box. I’m crap at recycling, so perhaps it’s best that I attempt to save the Earth one box of wine at a time. 

Once upon a piss-up ago, I thought it might be a novel idea to go wine tasting, but then someone told me what it involved and I was utterly horrified. You basically pay a ridiculous amount of money to sniff a thimble of the good stuff, swill it around your cake-hole and then - inexplicably - spit it out before saying pretentious shit like: ‘Ooh yes, a well-constructed bouquet! I can detect oaky notes, truffle, the armpit of a dead tramp, vibrant berries and a hint of stale vagina.’ All this to the sonic backdrop of some outlandish operatic aria that threatens to shatter the glass I'm holding incorrectly. I’m more likely to say something like, ‘You can tell it’s cheap, it tastes like bastard Sarsons!’ and then drink it anyway. And then go back for more. 

And can I just go back to the whole SPITTING IT OUT thing? Why would you do that? Is that not a bit like bulimia for piss heads? Surely the point is to swallow it and then feel all dreamy-smooth moments later? The only thing that makes me want to spit my current mouthful out is the ridiculous serving suggestion on the label which encourages me to ‘Enjoy [it] with steak or in front of a roaring fire.’ Oh, do piss off. What’s wrong with downing it at the kitchen sink, one shoe on, one shoe off, just moments after arriving home from work?

Oh, and that’s another thing: in terms of its consumption, I’m not a good sipper of wine. In fact, I’m more of a parched chugger. As I write, I am merrily throwing a nice 2016 Shiraz down myself. I have no idea what that means, by the way, I’m just reading the label with squinty eyes. It might have something to do with the grape, but I’m not sure. Just like my arse from elbow, I am largely unable to discern my claret from my Beaujolais or my Semillon from my Moscato. I am able to recognise a large pinot at twenty paces, though. Oh yes, indeed. 

On reflection, I’m not sure this wine-knowledge is going to work. I mean, you can take the lad out of Bestwood Village, but alas, not the Bestwood Village from the lad. Irrespective of what nuggets of information I dig up regarding any variety of vino, I’ll probably just continue to do what I always do when it comes to selecting a bottle. ie. Plumping for what seems to be a good deal in whatever shop I’m in. Three quid off my favourite? Oh, yes please! Two bottles for nine quid? Go on then! Free membership to the Desperately Seeking Cirrhosis club? Lovely. 


Friday, 1 December 2017

Mourning My Father

My father died a touch after 10am on Tuesday, November 14th. Yesterday, we cremated him.

Despite the crushing inevitability of it, when the call came to say that he had gone, the shock was indescribable.

That was just over a fortnight ago - a fortnight which seems more like a month, and a period of time which has been consumed by the horrible consequences of his passing. Like watching my family capitulate. Tending to funeral arrangements. Sorting out his confusing affairs. Attempting to wade through his house and his things. Speaking to all manner of people to inform them, whether they’re friends and associates or the customer service department of a utility company. There are so many people to tell. Either way, they’re all sorry for my loss.

It’s been relentless. And yet in those fleeting moments where my mind has the temerity to find solace in a different territory, or those first beautiful minutes after waking, where sleep washes my mind clean, I suddenly remember that he’s dead and the thought strikes me like a cold slap across the face. As I reel from the blow, I’m flabbergasted how I can be hit so hard and so unexpectedly by something I already know.

In grief, silence suddenly has a sound. I hear it at its loudest in the middle of the night when sleep eludes me and I’m overcome because it’s dawned on me for the hundredth time that I won’t ever speak to, or see, my Dad again. I hear it when I go to pick up the phone to check in with him as I did on a daily basis. But I can’t and the habit is hard to break.
I am heartbroken.

I lost my Mam when I was 23 and now my father at 41. My Mam was 61 when she died. My Dad had just turned 70. I feel thoroughly fucking swizzed. I feel too young not to have any parents left. I’m so angry and I don’t know what to do with it. In fact, I don’t quite know what to do with myself, full stop. I’ve never been one for laying in bed or sitting about aimlessly, but at the moment that’s all I want to do. I can’t concentrate on anything, whether it’s a book or a bit of telly.

Dad’s cavernous absence is like a constant ringing in my ears. The rawness of the grief has manifested itself in the strangest of ways. It's like I’ve developed some kind of mania. One minute I’m fine and then the most tenuous of triggers reduces to me to tears while I’m dithering around the milk in Sainsburys. I pull myself together but the oddness continues at the checkout where I inexplicably greet the checkout operator as though I’m Miranda. This happened today when I minced towards her and said, in an eerily joyous tone, ‘And a hearty good morning to you, kind sir!’ This was at 4.30pm and the woman - her name was June according to her badge - didn’t appear to be that thrilled about being mistaken for a bloke. Then I started laughing which morphed into tears. I paid the bewildered-looking June for the milk and made my way outside to find that I had absolutely no idea where I’d parked my car. No clue whatsoever. My short term memory is in tatters. One minute I’m in the middle of saying something and then - mid sentence - it’s gone, like someone has just yanked the plug from the socket.

I feel like I’ve had to hold it together since that horrible call and now that the funeral is over, I’m unravelling.

The relationship that I had with Dad was complicated to say the least and for the first time in my life, I feel as though I’m having to confront regret. He was a man of towering extremes and we often crossed words. In fact, we always seemed to occupy opposite sides of any spectrum. There were many times when we found great comfort in each other but for the most part, I often felt as though my Dad didn’t like me very much. I know he loved me - I have never, ever doubted that - but he never really liked me.

I don’t think he ever really forgave me for moving to London at 19. Just because you’re born in a place, it doesn’t mean you belong there. And that’s how I felt about home. It was like an ill fitting suit and I needed to escape for a variety of reasons. Dad mistook this as both an act of treason and pretension; as though I thought I was better than home and the people there. That I had ideas above my station. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just felt like the squarest of pegs in the roundest of holes. I was always anchored to the periphery - both socially and at home. I wasn't happy. Both my parents had their favourites. I was neither of theirs and Dad made it quite clear on many occasions. I refused to stand for it, which made it worse as Dad thought that as the father figure, he should be worshipped. The thing is, I did. He was my superhero in so many ways. He was ambivalent towards me; always blowing either boiling hot or freezing cold and this continued up until he died. I often think about the time I put a novel out a couple of years ago and he ignored it. To me, it was a bit of a big deal. He, however, could not have given less of a shit. I didn’t even tell him I was writing it. The first he knew of it was when I sent him the proof copy which had a dedication to him in the front. A week passed and I heard nothing. When I finally called him to see if he had received it, he told me in a rather despondent tone that he had, but that he was in the middle of reading something else and that he would get around to it when he could. Then he put the phone down. We never spoke about it again.

I only wanted to know if he’d seen the dedication. I’m not precious about my writing. Some people might like it and others hate it. It’s like anything. It’s always lovely to get good feedback, but I certainly don’t expect it. Later that night he told my brother that I had called him for an ‘ego massage’ - to this day, I find that response completely devastating. I probably always will. I’m certain that if I had a child and they sent me a novel that they had written, I’d be over the fucking moon. I’d be so proud. No matter how good or bad it was. The fact that my father showed me only disdain makes me profoundly sad. The saddest thing is, that I feel as though my Dad didn’t actually know me. He had a certain view of who he thought I was but I don’t actually think I’m anything like that person. I’ve already said this but it bears repeating: despite his inconsistent approach to me, I never felt unloved. Strangely, he would not tolerate the behaviour he often showed towards me from anyone else. Even in the last few months, he was hugely defensive. He has genuinely offered to kill every single one of my ex boyfriends. Even recently, when I told him about a disagreement I had with someone, he offered to come to London and ‘chin them.’

Every conversation we had would end with telling each other we loved each other. That said, there was a just a tangible disconnect between us at times. I couldn’t please him. One day, when I realised that doing so was as easy as filling a hole-laden bucket using only a knackered sieve, I stopped trying and he didn’t like that either.

At the core of the chasm that existed between us was the gay thing, I’m sure.

My Dad was of a certain generation; a generation which didn’t much like the queers. I came to terms with my sexuality at 23. Dad came to terms with it when I was 36. He’d known for years (in fact, he later claimed he always knew), but when I was 36, he was able to tolerate it. I say tolerate because I feel as though that was what he did. He wasn’t happy about it but he was able to frame it in his own head and there was no longer any need for secrecy and lies. It made him sad that ‘my condition’ (chortle!) meant that I would never have children. I saw that as a bit of a blessing to be perfectly honest, but he often verbalised how sad he was that I wasn’t going to pass on my genes, which, thinking about it, is quite a lovely compliment. During that first open conversation, I told him that he was not to worry about me and that if he had any questions, he should ask. An hour later the phone rang. The display told me that it was Dad. Before I could say hello, he immediately asked, ‘Who’s the train driver and who’s the tunnel?’ Needless to say, I now view Thomas the Tank Engine in an entirely different light.

My Dad was brilliant in so many ways. His best friend has spoken about how he, ‘would light up any room and the lives of those in it.’ I couldn’t put it better myself. In my opinion, his strongest gift - and he had many - was his charisma. As a kid, I would observe as the recipients of his attention became putty in his hands; whether it was someone serving him in a shop or one of my teachers. Yes, it helped that he was good looking, but he had that X factor about him. He was funny too. So very funny. He was clever. He was magnetic. He had both a physical and emotional presence but it was always on his terms and he was able to switch it on and off at will. People either loved him or feared him. Sometimes both.

When he was on form, there was no one kinder. No one more understanding. No one better. No one more protective. Once upon a time, my Dad punched a fucking donkey. He was the biggest animal rights advocate going. He punched it because the donkey kicked me. It every right to: I was standing too close. I was a fat kid and the donkey probably had enough problems without having to cart my considerable rump around a waterlogged car park. But when my proximity became too much, it bucked and I went flying, which wasn’t acceptable as far as my Dad was concerned. The donkey had crossed a line, so he decked it.

Like I’ve said, he was a man of extremes. Black or white with no grey sandwiched in the middle. For me, the pendulum would swing from overwhelming love and generosity to unjustified cruelty. It’s hard trying to reconcile the father and the flawed human. It’s going to take me years to unpick the relationship. For now, I can’t quite believe that he’s gone. The enormity of his presence in this world has lead to a gaping hole in the wake of his death. Despite everything, I’m so proud that he was my father. I love him and I miss him desperately.

I always will.