Thursday, 19 February 2015

B*stard - an excerpt..

Prologue

There is a room in a school. As rooms go, this one is pretty nondescript. Once upon a time, it used to be a class room, but now it’s an office. As such, it’s too big for the cheap, functional furniture inside and the d├ęcor is too bland to garner much attention. The walls boast layers upon layers of magnolia paint, slapped on over the years by disinterested painters far too jaded to bother about the job in hand. No care has been taken where the walls meet the floor. Dried globules of spilt paint pepper the edges of the regulation carpet that is threadbare in patches. A plastic bin, too small to conceal the wear, has been placed over one of the bald spots. A circular table, littered with coffee rings, discarded stationery, school books and meaningless paperwork, is jarringly placed off-centre to disguise another.

This is the table where meetings take place; where staff, parents and Sixth Formers come to be talked at, belittled and patronised. This is the table where no one likes to sit. There is a smell that hangs in the air; the aroma of years of overcooked vegetables, cheap cuts of meat in various guises and failed experimental cuisine from the canteen below have combined to permeate every cell of the room. Add to this the lingering whiff of years of unwashed parents and bedraggled teenagers who have pissed, spewed and breathed their anxiety into the fabric of the room. The lemon air freshener in the centre of the table doesn't stand a chance.

A fridge gently hums to itself in one corner. This is the sound that visitors try and zone in on when they are summoned to the room to be shouted or talked at. In the other corner, a desk has been placed diagonally to give maximum impact. Another patch of worn carpet radiates from the floor directly in front of it. X marks the spot. This is where subjects stand to be dressed down when things have gone wrong, when rules have been transgressed, when objectives and unrealistic, often impossible targets, have not been met.

A withered plant is slumped against the permanently locked windows, which partially explains the stench. Locked windows and defunct flowers symbolise something else; something intangible but understood nonetheless. There is nothing of warmth here. The picture of the trophy wife, positioned on the desk so that it is visible to everyone but the occupier of this room, exposes the real motive of its presence.

Other achievements are proudly on display but raise more questions and eyebrows than anything else: there is a glass cabinet which acts as testament to the devotion of former subjects. The rotting fruits of a twenty year teaching career are on show here: five mugs which scream 'BEST TEACHER EVER', 'NUMBER ONE TEACHER' and so on are presented in a reverse pyramid. Look closely and you'll notice that the one at the back is chipped, but what does that matter? No one drinks from these mugs anyway. This is the only shelf that is ever dusted regularly.

Scan the room and you'll notice other testaments to whimsical accomplishments. Hanging from the walls in small, inexpensive clip frames are certificates that prove that the resident-in-chief can administer minor first aid. Or at least they could three years ago. This person can direct people appropriately in the optimistic outbreak of a fire. This person once narrowed a gap, sometime, some place, somewhere. This person has an NVQ in risk and conflict management, although how he passed that course is a mystery, since aggression is what he thrives upon.

These accreditations are designed to show that the person who sits here knows their stuff. They are designed to demonstrate awareness, knowledge and therefore reinforce his questionable authority. The certificates are upstaged by a vast wall planner, spanning each day of the academic year that is about to begin. Even the wall planner shows early signs of fatigue. The whole thing has been put up at an angle, which conflicts with the uniform straightness of the certificates. The top right hand corner has come unstuck and curled over on itself, revealing a lump of overused Blu-Tak that has traces of magnolia paint attached to it. In short, the planner is unreadable and unusable in its current state.

So much is planned for this year, although you wouldn't think so to look at the chart: if you choose to push back its wilting corner you would see that it is untouched, except for one entry: The birthday of the Head of Sixth Form, the resident of the room in question. December twenty-fifth. Sharing a birthday with the saviour would be fitting if he hadn't converted away from Christianity to bag a teen bride.

Such cynical observations, it could be argued, are superfluous. Beyond the aesthetic, something deeper is happening in this room. This is a room where an internal ideology is being thrashed out. 

This is a place where an ego is constructing an Empire.

This is a place where miracles happen.



SEPTEMBER 1994

Sunday, September 4th, 1994
Hello. Good day. Whatever. Ahem.

My name is Sebastian, although that’s not how I’m commonly known. My family call me Sebby or Sebs and will even run to Sebastian if they’re blaming me for something that my brother has done, which happens all the time. Spit. At Sixth Form - where I am halfway through a two year sentence for crimes against English Literature, Politics and Geography - it’s a different story. Most people are given a nickname, which is either a variation of their proper name or a tribute to an unfortunate physical attribute. For example, a lad called Justin has been renamed Jugs. However, Tabitha, the golden girl, has also been reinvented as Jugs. The universe has conspired to link them romantically, so conversations involving them can be confusing. They really ought to be called Twatty and Twitchy, but what I say doesn’t tend to go. Rubbish.

The renaming brigade haven’t neglected the teachers: we have Honey Monster (who is an exact replica of the creature that adorns the packets of Sugar Puffs); Rocket-Tits (massive boobs PHSE teacher), Flat-Baps (no boobs music teacher), Moose (unfortunately faced geography teacher), Chip Pan Charlie (sour-faced, greasy-haired chemistry teacher and Head of Sixth Form), and Slab-Cracker (obese cookery teacher, who eats more than she teaches.)

My nickname isn’t particularly endearing. At school, I’m not Sebby, Sebs or even Sebastian. Oh no. On my first day in year seven I was Christened Sebastard, but now I’m just referred to - wholesale - as Bastard. Even by some of the teachers. Who are complete bastards.

If that wasn’t bad enough, people tend to judge me because of my hair. Well, I’m sorry, but it just grows like that. Maybe one day in the future, before they invent wheel-free cars, teleporting and big brothers who don't read your private things (Harry, if you're reading this, I know where your porn is hidden. Particularly like how you keep a toilet roll next to your stash. Classy. I just hope you've washed your hands before reading this.)

Where was I? Oh yes, there I was, optimistically hoping that a new dawn will bring hair that grows conventionally, and not just out in a wiry, direct line, irrespective of the gravitational pull of the New Moon. Sharon, who does something to my Mam's barnet every third Wednesday of the month, will often tug at clumps of my hair and shout, 'Innit tufty?' to anyone who cares to listen. She once found it hilarious that her cheap and nasty clippers wouldn't cut into my hair. I sat there, looking like an embarrassed pervert as she howled with laughter and chipped away at my skull with clippers that refused to do their job. 'I need t'get some shears on this tufty head, dun’ I?' she hooted. A woman sitting next to me with baby-pink curlers in her hair laughed, although I don't know how she dared: she had no teeth. Sharon may as well have gone for the shears option. I actually think that if she used plastic cutlery on my head - and wouldn't put it past her - the end result would look the same. Pervert haircut, just shorter. No wonder I'm a virgin. Which is ridiculous. I am EIGHTEEN.

So here are a few things about me:

1. My name is Sebastian/Bastard. Call me what you like. Today is my eighteenth birthday. Happy birthday to me, tra-la-laaa! I wanted a really cool jacket for my birthday. I got a coat, but it is not cool. It’s also too big for me, so I look like a cross between a porky flasher and an ambitious shoplifter. Apparently, I’ll grow into it, according to the givers of said item (Mam and Dad.) I might accidentally lose it or spill some bleach down it. Mam could tell that I wasn’t happy and went off on one, accusing me of being ungrateful. Am I? Am I really? Either way, I blame the parents. On and on she went, like some kind of venting dervish, telling me that there are plenty of kids out there who don’t have (terrifyingly ugly) coats. In which case, I shall happily donate my clothing hideousness to them. See how they like it. Happy now, mother?

2. I have pervert hair - which my brother should've inherited, thinking about it. Sharon should really use her clippers / shears / plastic spoons on some of the women in Harry's ART magazines. Unruly bits to say the least.

3. I go to Sixth Form. It's rubbish. Well, my first year at Sixth form was. My second year starts tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes. I’m not holding out much hope that it’ll be any better, although I’m looking forward to a school trip in February. Eastern Europe, can you believe? I’ve never actually been abroad before, so I’m disproportionately excited, even though I have to go with a load of people I don’t really like apart from my two best mates, Kenny and Andy. I shall just ignore everyone else or make friends with Hungarians and Czechoslovakians. I don’t care if they’re third worldly. I’m a socialist, after all.

4. Sixth Form smells. And the Sixth Form Base is depressing. It looks like a drop in centre for social misfits, which is probably why I go there. It's okay though because I get to LEAVE at the end of this academic year. Liberation in T-minus nine months and counting. Tickity tock.

5. Things I like: Madonna, eating and the prospect of leaving Sixth Form. Actually when that day comes, I bet everyone cries and tells each other that they love each other and that they'll keep in touch when it's obvious that they won't. We'll all write nice things all over our shirts and promise to keep them forever. Yet, I give it two weeks before Mam has spotted this unused item and transforms it into one of her Blue Peter dusters, much like she did to my favourite Madonna T-shirt. At least she didn't set my shoes on fire, as she did to our Sally. It wasn't that Sally had done anything wrong; Mam had just run out of fire-lighters, spotted Sally's shoes and chucked them on her stuttering pyre. Dad went mental. Apparently the shoes were, 'plastic rammel from the frigging market,' that were highly toxic and likely to kill us all. We survived though. Hurrah. Unlike Sally's shoes.

6. As you've probably guessed, my family are made up of pyromaniacs, mental people and offenders of all descriptions. I would like to know which parent gave me this hair gene. Actually, Dad is a total slap head, so it must be Mam. Dad is still being off with me after we had an argument last night and I called him a bald headed bastard as soon as I was in running distance to the bathroom (which is the only room with a lock on the door.) In fairness to me, he is bald headed and he was being a bastard. I know he's my Dad but that does not make him KING OF EVERYTHING INCLUDING WHAT THOUGHTS I'M ALLOWED TO THINK.

7. Things I do: Er... My A levels. I watch a lot of MTV at Andy's house in between lessons. We sometimes steal his Dad's whiskey and then fill it back up with water so we don’t get found out. I think we need to start using a tea bag though, as it's starting to look like vodka. I don't like vodka. It tastes like meths and it’s a slippery slope from there: vodka -> meths -> hanging around the graveyard like a proper tramp, pervert hair all long and wild, possibly playing an instrument of some sort (triangle? Xylophone?) while hoping that a sympathetic public will toss me a few coins so that I can buy more meths or bootlegged booze that will probably send me blind. What a lovely vision of the future.

What else do I do? Oh yes, I work at a supermarket called ShitSave. It's actually called KwikSave (that took some working out, huh?) but working there is shit. And the pay is shit. And the uniform is totally degrading: a shapeless burgundy tunic that wouldn't look out of place in a 1970s Bulgarian gin-house. It's like the woman in the uniform department got her hands on a load of crusty old curtains, a knackered sewing machine and had what she thought was a brainwave. Well it wasn't a brainwave. It looks like I'm dressed in a dead person's mattered blood. What with that and the toilet brush hair... Pie Jesu, why have thou forsaken me?

I also work at a Working Man's Club at the weekends, which I like. We have a right laugh and we're allowed to drink behind the bar. It's just a shame that 99% of the customers are twats. Oh, and there is a ‘committee’ there too, who are responsible for making decisions regarding the running of the place. Personally, I think it's an excuse for the regulars to get together and pretend that they're important. People who are on the committee think they're in the effing mafia. Refusal to comply with their demands is met with a curt, 'BUT I'M ON THE COMMITTEE!' as though I'm going to hit the deck and give them ten. It's embarrassing. Get a life, me duck.  It's not Ten Downing Street, it's a working man's club where the beer is cheap, the wine tastes like moonshine and the jukebox makes you want to kill yourself.

Every week, they have an artist on. These people have clearly spent lots of time thinking up a name for themselves but it ultimately ends in a cringe-fest as the posters say that tonight's act is DOUBLE TROUBLE or ACE OF SPADES or BLACK CRUSH or my own personal favourite, BIG WENDY. Whoever it is, it's usually someone who purports to being a singer. I don't know what it is that they're doing on that stage, but it's not singing. It's like they're trying to communicate with the dead by making sounds that only dogs can hear. I'd throw ice cubes at them (look at me, ever the rebel), but as the PE teacher once said to me, I throw, 'like a total spastic.' Give me a knife, Sir, and let me try aiming at you. Bet I'd hit the target then.

8. I like making lists, much like this one. It is soothing. Expect more of them.

9. Everyone is a twat today.

10. TWAT.

FIN.

Monday, 5th September 1994
Day one of Sixth Form was just as I expected it to be: mundane and pretty pointless. We didn’t have to start until eleven as the first few hours were given over to the new Lower Sixth. When we arrived, we had an assembly where we (the Upper Sixth), were told to look after the newbies and give them lots of friendly help and advice. Mine would be to leave now and enrol in a proper college, before it’s too late. Kenny kept nudging me throughout the assembly which made me want to laugh. I ended up vibrating my way through the proceedings with the odd short, sharp intake of breath thrown in so that I didn’t die. I received several withering looks from Chip Pan Charlie, who clearly hasn’t discovered shampoo or a sense of humour during the summer holidays. I spent lunchtime at Andy’s house, where we toasted the new academic year with a whiskey from his Dad’s drinks cabinet and watched some MTV.

The afternoon was a bit hum-drum. First, we all had a stern talking to by Chip Pan Charlie which can be paraphrased in the following way: work until your fingers bleed or prepare for a life of destitution. Karl Marx - a personal hero of mine - harped on a lot about the impending revolution. Sorry, Karl, but I’m getting bored of waiting. Das Kapital should have had timescales included. We were given our timetables (hurrah: free period last thing on a Friday) and that was about it. Came home, argued with Dad and had pie and chips for dinner. What a thrilling existence I lead.

FIN.

Saturday 10th September 1994
Hideous day at work today. Hideous. I shitting hate ShitSave. Rather than stack shelves, I had to stack refrigerators, which is just as dull as stacking normal shelves, except it’s significantly colder. I have developed strange compulsions to break delicate foodstuffs and damage things. I wonder if there is a syndrome for this? I hope not. The last thing I need is a syndrome attached to me. This morning, the chilled puddings took a bit of a hammering and I managed to successfully stick my finger through several yoghurt lids. Karl Marx (peace be upon him) would be proud. Although possibly not, if he was against waste: the yoghurts had to be chucked. Collateral damage.

During tea break, Mr Davies, my supervisor and a bit of a dwarf, it has to be said, called me boring. And why? Because when asked, I said that lesbians don't turn me on. He thinks lesbians are 'fucking brilliant' and says that he had several threesomes when he went to Ibiza. With lesbians. I highly suspect he is lying because:

1.       He kept stuttering when trying to recall details and his eyes roamed all over the place, like Charlie off Casualty.
2.       It seems unlikely. What self-respecting lesbian sleeps with a dwarf man? He is undeniably masculine and not in a good way. Even his fingers need a comb.
3.       He has bad breath. If the penis doesn't put the lesbian off, the breath surely will. It could curdle milk, which is probably why he has put me on the fridge aisle.

Mr Davies' fandom for all things homosexual is not all-inclusive, though. While he raves (and spits a bit while he does so) about how brilliant lesbians are, he thinks that gay men are ‘wrong.’ Wrong about what, he didn't elaborate, although it doesn't take a genius to work it out, which is just as well because we were sitting in a packed ShitSave staff room. I found myself zoning in on the overflowing ashtrays as everyone seemed to look at me for a response when he said this. Don't know why.

I spent the afternoon fingering more yoghurts. How's that for lesbianism, Mr Davies? Which means your shrinkage rate will go up. Which means they'll sack you and you won't be able to afford to go on your fictitious lesbian holidays where all the lesbians aren't lesbians, but are really dwarf-man and bad breath enthusiasts.

I missed the bus home so walked over the River Peal, which always freaks me out. Not only is the path / dirt track covered in dog shit, but I'm completely convinced that I will get murdered, or someone I pass will get murdered and I'll be wrongly convicted of the crime. Fortunately, I didn't get murdered; I made it home, watched some crap telly and argued with Harry and Dad. Fascists. I bet they don't think lesbians are boring.

Started thinking about the prospect of university today. Where shall I go? London sounds pretty appealing. I used to love going on coach trips to the capital when I was younger, although my overriding memory is that of spewing up after drinking some feral orange juice. It tasted bad and had to come out of one orifice or another. Poor Mam and Sally; they had to walk around all day with a kid covered in his own amber-tinged puke. It was a good day. Definitely not boring.

While I'm having a good moan, I'm not looking forward to school on Monday. Sam is still upset with me because I lost his membership form for the Madonna fan club. He thinks I've stolen it, which I haven't. I just lost it. I only wanted to read what it said. It's not like I'm going to join. That seems a bit militant. Besides, I am still waiting for my Madonna mug to turn up. I sent off for it nine months ago. Dad told me that a fool and his money are soon parted. I called him a bald headed bastard again but it made much less of an impact. I shall have to come up with something else. I might call him a lesbian and see what happens. 

FIN.

Monday 12th September 1994
I knew that I should’ve gone to college not sodding Sixth Form. We’ve only been back a week and I already feel compelled to self-harm with a loaf of crusty bread. When I signed up, no one told me that it’s basically an extension of what school was like – where the lessons are so boring it often feels like time has stopped and most of the teachers still talk to you like you’re an inconvenience. Or vermin. That said, there are some good teachers. Mr Capston, my English teacher, is a good egg. He gets me. And he always gives me good marks. But there are some terrible knuckle shufflers there too.

The Head of Sixth Form - step forward, Chip Pan Charlie - is arguably the worst human I have ever come across. A couple of years ago, he taught both GCSE and A Level, but in more recent years he has gone from Deputy Head of Sixth to the overall Head of Sixth and in doing so, he appears to have lost his sense of perspective. He thinks that his job is up there with that of Head of the United Nations - although why he models himself on some kind of despotic fuckwad is anyone’s guess. Huge ego, small penis and a lonely lifetime spent with zero friends, I reckon.

Rather hilariously, he often refers to the Sixth Form as HIS Sixth Form. His mantra is never far from his thin, spiteful lips: ‘This is MY Sixth Form and in MY Sixth Form, what I say GOES.’ If someone disagrees with him, his rallying cry can be heard within a fifty mile radius: ‘No one says no to Mister Charlesworth!’ Two things about this: 1. I hope he never gets accused of sexual assault. It would be a shabby defence. 2. I have no idea why he talks about himself in the third person. He’s not a rapper. Shabba!

Not only is he intrinsically repulsive, but physically he would probably come second to the Elephant Man in a beauty contest. His hair is worse than mine and he’s always got food down his comedy tie. And to think, they let him work with children.

Throughout my six and a bit years at school/Sixth Form, I’ve had the misfortune to have a few run-ins with him. His nephew was in my year before he disappeared to go to college at the end of Year Eleven. The same nephew once spat in my face for a dare. I told Mr Charlesworth and he inferred that it was my fault, as I must have provoked him in some way. I argued my point; that I hadn’t actually done anything to him - I genuinely hadn’t. But because I argued, he kept me behind after school. When I complained to the head of year, he increased it to a week’s worth of detentions. When Dan Rollings threw a sandwich at me one day, I picked it up and threw it back. Chip Pan Charlie saw the whole thing and yet it was only me who was made to stay behind and sweep the floor of the hall. When I got my my GCSE results and applied to do A Levels, he told me that my results were a fluke and that lightning didn’t strike twice.

During the last year of my GCSEs, I had to go into his classroom to fetch a board rubber. He was teaching at the time. As I left, I shut the door and heard a slight mutter from Chip Pan Charlie, followed by laughter. Later on, I found out that he had made a reference to me having, ‘a fat arse.’ Chip Pan Charlie shouldn’t have put his telephone number in the phone book. That night, I ordered him three taxis and a pizza. I have just ordered him another one. The woman on the phone asked me if I wanted any side orders with it. I wish I could’ve ordered him a bucket of cat piss, but that’s not on the menu. So in addition to the family-sized pepperoni pizza, he’s getting garlic bread and chicken wings. Bet he eats it. Hope so. Then his arse can get fatter than mine.

Told Harry about my plan to annoy / fatten up Chip Pan Charlie. He’s in. He even offered to put a brick through his car windscreen. Where can I get bricks from? Wish they sold them at ShitSave. He even suggested that we order him a ton of coal and request that it be tipped straight on his driveway. Brilliant idea.

This is how the Sixth Form social strata is made up: there are two year groups - lower and upper sixth. You have the Cool Clan, who spend their time being hilarious and right on. They wear the right clothes, have non-pervert hair and quote comedy programmes to compensate for their terrifying lack of personality. Ugh.

In addition to the Cool Clan, you have the God Squad, who sit around talking about Jesus and how great the Bible is; how Madonna is a hell-bound whore and how they are pleased that they’re all virgins, which is a LIE. Who, aged seventeen or eighteen is PLEASED that they’re a virgin? I’m not. The God Squad are mortally offended by the Couples Clan, who spend all their time groping each other and trying to conceal erections and pointy nipples. When they’re not snogging, they talk about all the sex that they’re having. This seems dreadfully unfair. And then in various corners, you have the drifters, who take music very seriously, refuse to use soap, and grow their greasy hair to ridiculous lengths. I don’t fit in with any of them. When I have a free period, I tend to float towards Andy’s house where we pilfer his dad’s booze and dissect music videos.

Chip Pan Charlie pulled me and Andy into the office today to bollock us. Apparently there was a fire alarm and we weren’t in school, so they all panicked because we may have been inside, burning to death. Except it was a practise alarm, so there was no chance of being involuntarily cremated. He didn’t like this when I pointed it out. He exhaled a laboured sigh and told me not to give him any lip. Then Andy hiccoughed and Chip Pan Charlie shouted at us to GET OUT of his office. With pleasure. Why do they tease us with practice fire alarms? Why can’t the place just do us a favour and burn down? I am going to wish on a star for the place to perish.


For God’s sake, I am eighteen years old. I have legal rights. I have two jobs. I have two friends, three if you count Carol, the fifty nine year old librarian. People think she’s scary but she’s not. She’s funny and she thinks the Cool Clan are arseholes too. When I dropped the school camcorder and it smashed into smithereens last year, she covered for me. A true mate. She once told me that I had come to bed eyes, which was nice of her, but the moment was ruined by Tracey who overheard her and said that I didn’t; that I actually had scary eyes. Great. Pervert hair and scary eyes. I am counting the days until I leave. Until then, I will continue to order pizzas, taxis and coal for those who cross me.

If you want to read more, go to:

Can't Cook, Won't Cook. Will Drink Wine.

If I was to construct a list of the things that I increasingly detest as middle age creeps up on me, two things would be immediately obvious:

1. It would be extensive. Like the Bible. Or War and Peace.
2. Cooking would be at the top.

When it comes to cooking, I am both unable and unwilling. A conscientious objector, if you will. I would say that I don't see the point, but the persistent hunger that troubles my innards reminds that this would be first degree bullshit. It's just that the process of food preparation is simply too much trouble: there are too many steps involved and it seems like such a mammoth task, that I lose all interest before I start. Instead, I usually decide to placate my hunger with a bottle of red wine. Once the first few sips pass my lips, my hunger realises that the party is over and simply goes away, leaving me to get rat arsed on a half a bottle. Okay, glass. Alright then, mug.

This is my process:

Step one: buying the food.
Difficulty rating: IMPOSSIBLE. It is for me anyway. I pick up my sad little basket, remove the litter (polo wrappers, old lists, etc) and walk around little Tesco, smacking my lips together like some dragged-up heathen as I try and work out what it is that I fancy to eat, other than wine. Back and forth I go, usually to little avail. On the occasions that I do manage to buy something to eat (pre-packed sandwich? Scotch egg twin pack? Tragic ready meal that looks nothing like the picture on the packet?) what tends to happen is that the chap at the checkout takes out his life's frustrations on my shopping. He will perform a quick, perfunctory scan of said item before launching it into the carrier bag as hard as he can. Soft items first (eggs, chocolate buttons, that sort of thing) and then the hard items on top (wine, tins of beans that I won't eat but will come in handy in case of nuclear fall out or if I need a weapon in times of burglary.) A quick row will ensue that goes something like this:

Me: Excuse me, but I have to eat that.
Checkout person: Vot?
Me: Can you be more careful, please? I have to eat that... wine.
Checkout person: (Continuing as though I have asked him the opposite) Cub-car, peez?
Me: Vot?
Checkout person: CUB-CAR PEEZ.
Me: Oh, Clubcard, right. Do I get extra points for SMASHED FOOD?
Checkout person: NEXPEEZ.

I will then leave, all murderous and gone-of-appetite, so all thoughts of cooking go right out the window. And even if I was hungry, I don't really want to eat the pre-packed sandwich any more. It was tragic enough when it was reduced and slightly limp looking as it's sell by date drew dangerously close. Now it's been BATTERED by a tin of corned beef and a bottle of cooking wine (all tastes the same after a couple of swigs, no?) it looks like road kill. So it's a no from me. I will place it in the fridge with the eggs, yoghurts and rancid ready meal before finding solace in wine.

Step two: cooking the food.
Difficulty rating: IMPOSSIBLE. Wash, chop, slice, baste, blanch, dice, parboil, peel - who can be bothered? Life is stressful enough without having to skim, scallop and fricassee. I don't even know what these things mean anyway. The only method of cooking I like is the stab-stab-ding-ding microwave method. But that means that I have to look directly at a ready meal without it's sleeve to cushion the blow. You just know that someone on that production line gobbed in it, don't you? Better just put it back in the fridge (or not take it out in the first place) and ruminate upon a poor diet while sipping wine. Directly from the bottle.

Step three: clearing up afterwards.
Difficulty rating: TOO TEDIOUS TO CONTEMPLATE. Another reason not to bother, in other words.

Step four: Throwing things away / recycling.
Difficulty rating: EASY, BUT DESPAIR-ENHANCING. By now I have a fridge full of food, way past its sell by date and six empty bottles of wine, sitting idly on the side. The food will go in the bin, untouched; the bottles will go in the recycling. And I will open another bottle to remedy my anger at spending lots of money on food that I have effectively just chucked away. Next time I go shopping, rather than put it away, I will transfer it directly from the boot of my car, straight into the wheelie-bin.

JOB DONE.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Domestic Abuse...

'And every man that walks through that door, will be compared to you forever more...' (Madonna, Best Friend)

It's not that often that I think of my ex, but today, I was forced to confront some of his actions and it's left me reeling somewhat. 

As part of my 'professional development', I attended a course on domestic abuse. Prior to going, I had an idea of what domestic abuse was, but I never really considered myself to be a victim of it. And yet it turns out that I was. For two years. Don't misunderstand me: I realise that my relationship was toxic, damaging and dangerous, but - for whatever reason - I've never evaluated it in terms of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse isn't confined to race or income. And it's not confined to gender or sexuality. In fact, the social worker who led the course said that in her experience, the worst domestic abuse that she has dealt with has been between gay and lesbian couples. When she first said this, I felt defensive and wanted to challenge her, but she quickly answered the questions I wanted to ask: she didn't have statistical proof that this was the case and nor was she saying that same sex couples have a higher propensity of abuse - it's just something that she has encountered on a personal level. I still felt somewhat irked though, but as the course began, I realised that more than anything, she had hit a nerve.

I met my ex when I was vulnerable, although if you'd asked me if I thought that I was vulnerable at the time, I'd have laughed it off. Don't be ridiculous. Me? I'm all right. Nothing wrong with me. I have a great capacity to bounce back from negative situations, even if I do say so myself. Although looking back, I was probably mid-bounce when I met Gary, unknowingly looking for someone to catch me. And catch me he did. A few years earlier, I had lost my Mam and six months later, I got into a relationship with someone - let's call him Twat - who wasn't very nice. He wasn't spectacularly awful, although he could've treated me a lot better than he did. He didn't need to cheat on me, in front of me. When that went belly up, I had to confront a lot of things at the same time: Mam's death, the emotional fragmentation of my family, my sexuality and a bruised, fractured heart. Aged twenty four, I embarked on a two year celibacy stint. It wasn't planned. It just happened. I was too hurt by the actions of Twat to bother with anyone. Wounds needed licking. Mental barriers needed rebuilding and reinforcing. I resolved never to let anyone do that to me again.

And then I met Gary. 

It transpires that domestic abuse has five parts to it: psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional. It's rooted in control and coercion. Victims are often groomed. They don't realise it's happening until they're in the thick of it. It can be insidious in its nature. It certainly was with Gary. I scored five out of fucking five.

It's only now that I fully appreciate how badly I lost at the mind games he played. I suppose a marker of my ongoing vulnerability - and where I initially went wrong - was how quickly I self-disclosed my past to him. By revealing what had happened to me, I showed him my hand. I told him all that he needed to know. I told him about my Mam dying of cancer. He took my hand and looked me in the eye. He was welling up. He told me that he too had had cancer - testicular - but he'd beat it. I told him about Twat and he revealed that he was currently battling an ex who was seeking to rip him off to the tune of £40,000 - half the profits of the house sale that they had been forced to sell when they split up; a split that was caused by Gary catching his ex cheating. Immediately, I sympathised. I thought that we had a connection. We had been through very similar things - affected by similar circumstances. Or we would have, if he'd not lied. He never had cancer, I later found out. Nor did his ex rip him off. It was the other way around. And so a labyrinth of untruths were set place. Every day for two years, I believed things about Gary that simply weren't true. I wanted to believe him because I loved him. He told me everything I wanted and needed to hear. I had no reason to disbelieve him, although in retrospect,  my naivety disgusts me. For a long time, I blamed myself for falling for his bullshit. But I loved him. And like I just said, I had no reason to disbelieve him. I loved him and he loved me and he would never hurt me. 

But he did hurt me. Like the time we had a row because I wouldn't buy a round of drinks for him and a group of his friends who had spent all night excluding me from the round when it was their turn. I decided to go home and he announced to his friends that he had also had to go because there was nobody to buy him drinks if I was leaving. I didn't argue with him: I was too angry to talk. When we got home I went to the bedroom. I went to shut the door, but the open window caused it to slam: something I learned never to do. I learned that this was the wrong thing to do because as I went to take my jeans off, he burst into the room, picked up the lamp on the chest of drawers next to him and smashed it over my head. I fell onto the bed and as I rolled over, holding the back of my head, he jumped on top of me - all twenty five stones of him - and laid into me. He punched me, pulled at my hair and then bit my chest so hard that the teeth-mark shaped bruise lasted for four months. I have a lump where he did it. Scar tissue apparently. Whilst he hit me, I laid there, apologising to him and asking him to stop. I couldn't have hit him back because I loved him too much. Sounds pathetic, I know. He then smashed up the flat that I had just spent hundreds of pounds furnishing. But he was going to pay me back as soon as his money came through from his ex. 

So why didn't I leave him the following day? Nothing justifies that sort of behaviour, right? You wouldn't put up with that, would you? But when you're in that situation, it's not as clear cut. First off, I couldn't leave. Consider the context before writing me off as a mug. Shortly after meeting him, he had a dispute at work. He told me he was a D-Grade nurse (another lie, I later found out - he was a health care assistant) and after being unfairly harassed at work (another lie), he had lost his temper and walked out (a lie - he was sacked). The only problem was that with his job came his accommodation. And so he was faced with having to move back to his parents house, a seven bedroom house in Sunderland (a lie). He didn't want to go. I didn't want him to go. As he sat there sobbing, I came up with a plan: we would move in together. It seemed like the only solution.

There was a slight problem. My best friend who I lived with, hated him. Perpetrators of domestic abuse are experts at isolating their victim. They require control. Opponents - other loved ones, that is - have to go. Looking back at this, his control was taking effect. He sought to cause a rift between me and my best friend and he succeeded. I'm ashamed of that. And I'm still sorry about that to this day. My only defence is that I loved him. I really loved him. I could see no wrong. My best friend was having none of it, quite rightly, and she was not prepared to live with him. It was for the best: I dread to think what games he would've played had the three of us lived under the same roof. It would not have ended well. So we decided to move in together, elsewhere. The only problem was that he had no job and my name was already on the rent book of another house. He needed a guarantor but couldn't get one - his mum, the only person who could do it for him, was having trouble with the tax man (another lie). He asked if I knew anyone. I did: my other best friend, who hadn't met him, but had only heard good things about him, was prepared to do it for me. For us. So we moved in together. Gary's name was on the tenancy agreement, but my best friend was the guarantor. And that's why I couldn't leave. Because he failed spectacularly to even attempt to get a job. I was paying for everything. Rent, bills, food, drink, nights out (and he loved his nights out), the lot. If I left, I knew what would happen: he wouldn't be able to pay for anything. And my best friend would end up with a huge bill - something that I promised would never happen when he signed the tenancy agreement. Besides, where would I go? Becky, my best friend who I had been living with, had given up the house and had moved on. I had nowhere to go. And I was embarrassed. And I loved him. And I still believed in him. The violence wasn't that common, but it gradually increased. And we did have good times. He used to be able to make me howl with laughter. 

Without wanting to labour the point, I loved him. Those feelings overpowered every negative feeling and experience that I had. Like the time when I attempted to leave the flat one night. As I reversed out of the car park, he stood in front of my car, blocking my path whilst holding a breeze block above his head. He once took a knife to me. I can't even remember why. He kicked locked doors off their hinges. If I went out without him, he would text and call me constantly, relentlessly. He took to going out until all hours and when he got home, he would turn the main light on in the bedroom.It didn't matter that I had to go to work and be up at six. If I complained - which I did, he would go ballistic. He once came home with a bucket of greasy chicken and sat there slobbering over it. Before I could get up to go to bed, he - for no reason - threw a piece at me, which hit me straight in the face and ended up on the floor. Then, because it went on the floor, he decided he couldn't eat it and then went bat-shit crazy. Afterwards, he would be apologetic and would blame the drink, which I sadly accepted. He was in control. He knew what to say. Even when he threw a glass at me, which rebounded off my temple and then disintegrated as it hit the wall, I was able to minimise and justify it. I lost most of my friends for a while. He controlled where we went and eventually his embarrassing, pointlessly aggressive behaviour meant that he got barred from our local pub, which was the corner-stone of our social life. I became pretty isolated. In the end, I had him and him alone.

Another reason - probably the main reason by this point - that I couldn't leave, was financial. He was still waiting for the money to come through on the house that he had sold. Until it came through - he and his ex were having a rather long-winded legal battle - he was borrowing from me. Rather extensively. Exhaustively, actually. Not only was I trapped in the flat, he owed me and he owed me big. The flat was furnished on credit - all in my name. His credit rating was shot to pieces and he wasn't earning. Putting it on credit made it easier to keep track of his tab. Or so it seemed. When the money came through, he said he would simply pay it off. And yes, another lie. He bought a car, or rather, I bought him a car. I also put petrol in it weekly, taxed it and insured it. Although insuring it was literally money down the fucking drain as I later found out that he hadn't even passed his test, so if anything happened, they wouldn't have paid out anyway. I paid his half of the rent and all of the bills for the duration of our time living together. Everything he wanted, he got. And he wanted a lot of stuff. Clothes, holidays, very regular nights out, take outs and DVDs on his rare nights in, a 40" flat screen plasma TV, a top of the range computer, phone bills that you wouldn't believe. Two hundred pounds a month were common. He liked expensive furnishings. He had a catch phrase: 'only the best for me.' He would joke, 'what's yours is mine and what is mine is also mine.' Although, I thought he was joking. He meant it. If ever I queried whether he really needed his latest desire, he would sulk - he would sit and radiate negativity until I caved in. Which I did every time. 

By the time we finally split, I owed fifty thousand pounds thanks to him. Fifty fucking thousand pounds. I still sit and wonder how he managed it. I would press him about the money from the house and he said he would sort it. I would come home and as I walked through the door, he would be shouting into the phone. Ranting and raving. He would invariably slam the phone down and start cursing his ex. When he finally calmed down, he would tell me that he had been on the phone to his solicitor demanding to know what was happening about the house money. Then one day I came home and he told me that he needed to talk to me. He said that his money was coming through but he had to give it to his mum otherwise she was going to go to prison. I was aghast. It turned out that after his father had died, she had taken over his building firm. She had run the business into the ground and in doing so had fucked up the taxes. She lost her seven bedroom house and had to move into a two bedroom council house. If she didn't pay what she owed, she was going to prison. This, obviously, was utter fiction. She never owned a business, nor had she owned a house, seven bedroom or otherwise. And neither had Gary. He never owned the house with his ex. It was rented. So all along, he allowed me to borrow money, promising to pay it back when money that he knew didn't exist came through. 

About a year after we split up, I wrote to his mum and told him what he'd done, knowing that if there was one person he would listen to, it would be his mother. A few days later, I got a call on my mobile phone from a private number. I knew instinctively that it was him. I answered it and was met with a barrage of verbal abuse and threats. Who did I think I was? How dare I tell his mother such things? I told him that I wanted the money he owed me. By this point, I'd lost everything. I lost my house and everything in it. I had to apply for an IVA, a form of insolvency, in order to manage his debts. I was living in a damp bedsit and was working just to pay his debts off. As soon as my monthly outgoings were paid, his creditors took the rest. But because it was all in my name, the debt was mine and mine alone. I sought legal advice and was met with a shrug of the shoulders. He promised to pay me back at fifty quid a month. It didn't touch what I owed, what HE owed, but it was something. Of course, this was a lie. I didn't get anything from him. He also took this opportunity to tell me that he had recently tested HIV positive and also had hepatitis C. As though that made it all right. Again, he was lying. But again, he was controlling me. In the aftermath of splitting up, other people sought me out to find out whether or not things that he had said were true. He had told people that he was dying of brain cancer. He told people that his parents had been killed in the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami. What sort of person does that?

Some of his lies - to me at least - served a purpose. With me, his aim was financial. Although some of what he said was ridiculous: he told me that he had been to America seven times in the year prior to us meeting. A lie. He had travelled the world. A lie. He told me his sister was his twin. A lie. She was several years younger. He told me he owned a jet ski. A lie. He told me that he spelt his name  G-A-R-R-Y and even had it tattooed down the inside of his forearm, but when I saw his passport and saw that it only had one R, he told me that he didn't like that way of spelling it and so had changed his name by deed poll from GARY to GARRY. A lie. Equally hilarious and tragic. And to think I believed him. I think he did it because he could. He toyed with me, just to see if I would believe him. He told me all sorts of shit. And I swallowed all of it. I was under his spell.

He ruined me financially. Even though we split up in June 2006, his debt legacy lives on for me and I'll finally be free of it in May next year - eight years after seeing him for the last time. He also damaged me emotionally. But I'm better now, although my bullshit detector is second to none. I used to think that people were my friend until they proved otherwise. These days it's different, which isn't a bad thing I suppose.

I don't often think about him these days, although today I feel as though I've had to confront our shared history and make sense of it. I made terrible choices. There were many dark days in the first few years of the split as I came to terms with the full extent of the lies that he told and the consequences for me. I have no idea where he might be now and what he might be doing and nor do I care. I believe in karma. That's enough.

And some good did eventually come of the relationship. During the ensuing depression, I went out and got hammered one night. Dangerously so. I ended up hospitalising myself: I was that drunk, I cartwheeled down two flights of concrete stairs at Leicester Square tube station, leaving me with a fractured arm, a dislocated shoulder and a gash in my chin that required stitches, I was signed off work for five weeks. And who came to my rescue when I was laying in a bed in a hospital in central London? Becky, my best friend who he sought to drive away.

It was my right arm that I fucked in the fall. I couldn't cook for myself. I couldn't drive. My arm was strapped to my chest, so walking was scary as my balance was off kilter. I could even wipe my arse properly. I needed sleeping tablets (marvellous invention) as the pain would keep me awake. The paramedics who stretchered me out of Leicester Square told me that I was lucky that I hadn't severely damaged myself. They had seen much worse from much less falls. I got some perspective. I jacked in my job in IT and went to Spain for six months, which was amazing. I met someone who I was with for four years, and although it ended, I don't look back in anger. Those four years were an achievement. It was a good relationship. And today, I'm in a job that I love in an entirely different sector and without wanting to sound arrogant, I think I'm pretty good at it. I have published two books. And I've fallen in love with an amazing bloke. We're made for each other. He would never do what Gary did. And I'm grateful for every day. I'm happy. I am where I want to be. And I'm not sure that would be the case if it wasn't for that experience. If it wasn't for Gary. Even though he was a complete cunt.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

My Life According to Google...

1: Type in "[your first name] NEEDS" in the Google search: 
JOHNNY NEEDS 13 BOTTLES OF WATER.
Do I? I'm all up for casual rehydration but 13 bottles of water seems a bit extreme. I'll be up all night wee-weeing. Can't you die by drinking too much water or is that an urban myth? I'd much prefer 13 bottles of San Miguel. Or wine. It's getting cold outside, which means red wine.13 bottles of the stuff. 13? Lucky for me.

2: Type in "[your first name] LOOKS LIKE" 
JOHNNY LOOKS LIKE YOUR PET.
Rude. I've taken some insults in my time, but never from a search engine. I'm told that I look like him out of Man V Food (also rude) and Peter Kay (rude and depressing, much as I love him.) 

3: Type in "[your first name] HATES" 
JOHNNY HATES JAZZ.
Somewhat true. I can't be doing with the messy and dischordant vocal gymnastics of someone going, 'dooobe dooobe do, skooodabip bolly booop cloofy ramadan-ading dong' whilst someone clatters about in the background as though they're taking a bad mood out on kitchen utensils. It's just noisy. And fucking awful.

4: Type in "[your first name] GOES" 
JOHNNY GOES NUTS.
Why? Is someone playing jazz? Pass me that wooden spoon and milk pan. I'm going in.

5: Type in "[your first name] LOVES" 
JOHNNY LOVES HIS DADDY.
That I do. And I'm not talking about my biological father. Although I do love him, in an entirely appropriate way.

6: Type in "[your first name] EATS" 
JOHNNY EATS A WHOLE RAW POTATO.
In all fairness. this coheres with my culinary prowess. Can't cook, won't cook. Will eat a whole raw potato. Think of the vitamin C.

7: Type in "[your first name] HAS" 
JOHNNY HAS A LONG MOUSTACHE.
Coming to a seventies porno near you. Probably. Das ist fantastiche bebe! Ich liebe mine Daddy, etc. *splat*

8: Type in "[your first name] WORKS" 
JOHNNY WORKS ON THE DOCKS.
Every boy loves a sailor. Don't they? Actually I don't. I once went on a sailing trip with school. We were taken by a teacher who looked like an alcoholic Captain Birds Eye and carried with him the whiff of mildew and second hand Benson and Hedges cigarettes. His entirely appropriate nick name was 'Fungi.' My bestie mate spent the week vomiting in the toilet whilst I peeled potatoes for dinner. Which I probably served whole and raw. Mmmm, delicious. Fungi was a bad tempered old fucker. He spent all day being moody (probably on account of being forced fed uncooked spuds) and would leave us unattended (we were 12) of an evening whilst he took the dinghy ashore and got pissed. Meanwhile, we found his secret stash of dark rum, which we drank and then replaced with black tea. That'll learn him, etc.

9: Type in"[your first name] LIVES" 
JOHNNY LIVES IN A PARKING LOT.
Come round and see me sometime. I've got lots of space. Bring a bottle. We'll make a fire and sing songs. Or make jazz records. 

10: Type in "[your first name] DIED" 
JOHNNY DIED AT CHRISTMAS.
Not surprising. It does my head in. All that hum-drum faux-pleasantry and binge drinking. It was probably that last sausage roll and game of charades that finished me off.

11: Type in "[your first name] DOES" 
JOHNNY DOES NOT LIVE HERE ANYMORE.
That's right, I moved to a lovely car park off the A41. I'm not a dogger. Honest. Like, woof.

12: Type in "[your first name] WILL" 
JOHNNY WILL HAVE A NEW MASTER.
And his name is DADDY. 

13: Type in "[your first name] CAN" 
JOHNNY CAN HEAR GARFIELD.
Which means I've either got Dr Doolittle tendencies or am slightly schizophrenic. Either way, please send the relevant drugs. And cat litter.

14. Type in "[your first name] PLAYS" 
JOHNNY PLAYS THE FIDDLE.
Beats jazz, I suppose. 

15. Type in "[your first name] DRIVES" 
JOHNNY DRIVES 16KM DIRECTLY WEST.
Because that's where my car park home is. Come on over to my place. Hey you, we're having a wimpy. Etc.

16. Type in "[your first name] FEELS" 
JOHNNY FEELS BETRAYED!
Has Daddy been cheating? The dirty old bastard! I'm leaving! I'll find a new fucking car park. That'll learn you. 

17. Type in "[your first name] SMELLS"
JOHNNY SMELLS GOOD.
Like, duh. I always smell lovely. I pride myself on it. Fresh and fragrant, people.

18. Type in "[your first name] IS"
JOHNNY IS THE BOY FOR ME.
Too late, Daddy. You had your chance. You blew it. 

19. Type in "[your first name] KILLS"
JOHNNY KILLS HIMSELF.
Obviously I took Daddy's cheating very hard. RIP. Hang on, didn't I just top myself at Chrimbo? Yo, ho, ho! *croak*

20. Type in "[your first name] SEES"
JOHNNY SEES GOD.
I saw her at Hyde Park last year on her MDNA tour. She was ever so good.:-) 

Memories of Summer...

September can be a cruel month, can't it? Summer decides to retire for the year, all three weeks of it. On top of that, it's the month when my age decides to inflate itself by a whole year. Unfair, I think you'll find. Although, if you want to help remedy my anguish, I am accepting donations to the facelift fund. Failing that, I like alcohol and things that smell nice. The ninth month also marks the end of my six week holiday and although I love my job, going back into school after six weeks of suiting myself, getting up when I feel like it and as much midweek drinking as you can handle (lots, thank you very much) can be a shock to the system. 

Invariably, the first assignment given out is a recount of the summer holidays. It's tradition. Much like presents at Christmas, cakes on your birthday, hangovers on a Sunday and howling like a rabid banshee at 6.30am on a Monday morning when the alarm goes off. So with that in mind...

WHAT I GOT UP DURING MY SIX WEEKS PISS UP HOLIDAY. 
By Johnny Red Pants (aged A LOT)

Oh, I had it all planned. I didn't want to fritter my summer away in random pubs, chipping away at my liver function with a casual disregard. I didn't want to regress to my teenage years, where I would stay in bed until noon and then spend the rest of the day in my pyjamas until it was time to go to the pub. Not this year. This year, I would get up at the crack (snigger) of dawn, take myself to the gym and then spend the rest of the day doing good deeds, thus investing in a sizeable portion of positive karmic payback. This all started rather marvellously until I did my knee in. And then my hip. And then my ankle. There was only one thing for it: go to the pub, where I had a rather great time. I still did good deeds: I would take my own glass to the bar once I'd finished, thus saving the glass-collectors legs and I probably single-handedly saved the pub from going under, as most of them seem to be doing. Well done me.

Towards the end of the holidays, it started to get a bit hum-drum, so I thought I'd have myself a little adventure. Initially I was going to go abroad, but a quick look at the prices, inflated about ten fold because of the school holidays, and I decided to think again. Instead, I looked at staying in the UK. Brighton in other words. After a quick mooch about the internet, I booked myself into a B&B that apparently boasted a  'DELUXE GARDEN VIEW ROOM' in the rather ostentatiously named, 'Old Palace Guest House.'

After dumping my case, I surveyed the room. I got the 'old' bit, but palatial it was not. Nor could the word 'deluxe' be applied in the truest sense of the word. Unless they're going for irony, in which case they're bang on the money, honey. Also, the garden view left something to be desired. A snatched glance through the window revealed a peculiar cement basement garden, approximately six square feet, that played host to a yellow table and a well used ashtray. It was the worker's smoking area. But you know what, it was clean enough (there was the reassuring smell of bleach wafting through, anyway) and the location was groovy, baby. The Brighton wheel was in spitting distance - not that I would spit, being a kind, socially conscious sort of bloke. Cheap and cheerful would best describe it. It was a change of scenery, so hip, hip and an almighty hurrah.  En-suite, wi-fi, a flat screen telly and the bed was comfy. Pleasing. Day one was spent kicking back, reading and watching the world go by. I sat and observed the patrons of Brighton while listening to snatches of conversation as they passed me by. I love that kind of thing. Or I did until a family plonked themselves down at the table next to me and I got stared at by their baby who had the face of a wizened old hamster. Endearing at first. Terrifying thereafter. But amusing throughout. 

Day two saw me take advantage of the breakfast part of the B&B experience. I'm not sure what was strangest: the breakfast itself or the conversation that surrounded it.

I pootled downstairs just before nine feeling rather fresh and smelling rather fragrant, even if I do say so myself. All but one table was occupied, so I sat my rump in the nearest available chair and thumbed through my book. The atmosphere was slightly muted, save for the odd grunt that I think was supposed to masquerade as a morning salutation. Next to me was the galley kitchen, approximately a metre and a bit wide and probably about three metres long. I counted nine people in there. Almost an orgy. I was bought a pot of (rather delicious, actually) coffee and was asked by the Lithuanian girl who served it if I wanted, 'Foolish breast fast.' Thick tits and make em snappy? What was she on about? In the end, I just did the age-old British thing of agreeing with a curious smile, not wanting to offend. Turns out she wanted to know if I wanted a FULL BREAKFAST.

Trading standards could have a right gay old time if they got wind of the erroneous offerings of this establishment. There was nothing FULL about it: ONE cherry tomato. HALF - yes, HALF - a grilled mushroom. And not a big fuck-off field mushroom, we're talking a NORMAL mushroom. A spoonful of beans. One egg. One rasher of bacon. One slice of toast. Still, what they gave me tasted pretty good and I told myself that my arteries are perhaps all the better for it. To be honest, it was enough. I'm just a greedy guts. A woman on the next table kept looking at me and smiling. It transpired that she was Irish, about 70 and of questionable mental health. This is her first time to Brighton. And do you know what her verdict is? 'Lovely, but where are the potatoes?' I wasn't quite sure that I'd heard her right, so I verbally begged her pardon and she repeated her concern about the lack of the potatoes. 'Chips, yes. Chips everywhere. Chips, chips, feckin' chips. Chips up to me tits. But I don't want chips. I want mash. Boiled. Baked. But no. All you've got is chips. Pissing chips.' I wasn't quite sure what to say, so I smiled and found myself grateful that my breakfast was rather meagre - I inhaled it, rose to my feet and swept out of the room like some rotund enigma in a bright yellow T-shirt. 

Later that day, I walked 20,000 steps according to my pedometer. I donned my iPod and set off with the wind in my hair and a song in my heart. First to the marina and back,then to Hove and back again. Then I went to the pier and had a couple of quid on the OXO bandit. My Mam always warned me of the perils of fruit machines. There will only ever be one winner, she warned. And it won't ever be you. Oh, ye of little faith, mother. I put in a pound and as my credit ran out, it looked as though her prophecy was correct. But then, with a cursory flick of my thumb and a steely gaze fixed on the screen, the universe conspired in my favour. I won my pound back. Triumph! Much excite and bum sweat. I was going to spend my winnings on an ice cream, but the DIRTY, EVIL, ROBBING bastards on the sea front wanted £4.99 for three scoops. No way hosepipe, etc. 

In life, there are winners (hurrah!) and losers (boo!) And on day three, I fell squarely into the former category. So much so, I almost felt the need to race up the town hall steps fisting the air whilst Eye of the Tiger provided a somewhat dated but entirely appropriate sonic backdrop. The key word in that last sentence is 'almost'. I chose not to as: a) I am clumsy and would've suffered a calamity resulting in the swift transfer from winner (hurrah!) to loser (boo!); b) I wasn't sure where the town hall was and whether it has steps; c) I couldn't be bothered. Besides I was planning on going out that evening and needed to preen. 

Let me tell you all about it. You see, all week I sensed that I win would something on the bandit. The prior day's break-even win of a single British pound only served to whet my appetite. As I mooched back towards my non-deluxe deluxe room (with non-garden garden view), I had the overwhelming feeling of unfinished business. Sitting idly on my bedside table was a collection of silver coins totalling about £1.30. I swiped them into my pocket and decided to do battle with my nemesis: the OXO machine sitting to the left as you enter the amusements on the pier. I laughed a wicked, evil laugh as I fed it my coins. Thirteen attempts later, it appeared that I was a loser (boo). Rejecting this outright, I fingered my wallet for more money. I deposited another pound into the chrome coin hole. I hit autoplay (which means, in OCD terms, that I don't have to press the rather scruffy buttons - playing these machines often gives you the same sensation as stroking a dog with a filthy coat. You don't know know where people put their hands, do you?) 

Wheels spun. Lights flashed. Combinations briefly presented themselves and then spun into a different combination. I watched pensively as my credit shrank, spin by spin. And then three Xs landed in a pound-winning flash. With a single quid in the bank, I was still 30p down. But not for long: within two spins, I had two Xs and a 0 but rather than spin again, I was offered a nudge. Three of them in fact, which was rather generous as I only needed two in order to double my winnings. With two spins left, it looked as though I would leave with a modest return. But no. The wheels spun and in an instant I was looking at the jackpot combination: BAR-BAR-BAR. The bank raced to £7.00. But it wasn't over. The machine's buttons simultaneously flashed. It offered me the chance to hold the combination. I did and I won again. After another spin, I squealed (a big, butch squeak, okay?) as the machine made a chugging noise and pumped my winnings at me. I was going to spend my winnings on a thumb ring, but the only design I liked looked like it might turn my thumb green and that would make me a loser (boo!) which I am not. I am a winner (hurrah!) So I had a cake instead. Double hurrah!

Then I went to the pub, got a bit tiddly and lived happily ever after until September came around and I sulked.

FIN.